The Blue bBerg


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T. Eric Brown

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Has anyone else heard this theory before? It says that the iceberg that the Titanic struck was actually upside down and was more transparent than a berg that is right-side up. They are called "Blue Bergs". This is believed by some to have been one of the reasons it took so long for Fred Fleet to see the berg.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Yep, we've heard of it. We don't know whether or not it's true, but it's there and in sworn testimony in one form or another. Fleet reported it as a "black mass" in testimony to Senator Smith. Having said that, I have to wonder if this may have been a touch of confabulation or an outright fib. Rowe for example described it as "Oridnary ice" without any qualifyers as to it's colour when questioned by Senator Burton.
 
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Wayne Keen

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I seem to remember reading about the "blue berg" even back to my initial Walter Lord readings as a young person.

There are several items like this, including some mention by some witnesses of a haze on which the witnesses seem to disagree, and for which there is incentive in later testimony for officers to provide mitigating circumstances for their company and officers.

Wayne
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Check out both lookouts' testimonies, but particularly Lee. He said the berg was dark when the ship approached. Then, it was dark with a light fringe around it. Finally, he describes it pretty much the way a berg would be expected to appear--but only after it passed his position.

Taken together, this would seem to be a good description of a berg which has rolled on its side to expose its dark underbelly. The dark side was facing Titanic. As the ship passed, the first lighter appearing ice became visible as "fringe" around the dark area. Then, after the ice went past the observer it appeared light because Lee was looking at the old top which had been exposed and weathered to the normal white appearance of an iceberg.

Check out the BOT testimonies of Captain Cannon and Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton for information about blue icebergs.

Also, there was another ship on the North Atlantic that night which reported a "black" iceberg. Sorry, I can't dredge the name out of my memory at the moment.

Titanic's accident took place in an area where the Labrador Current meets the the Gulf Stream. The warm waters of the Gulf Stream cause the bergs to disintegrate. As they do, it is typical for bergs to roll ("capsize") without warning. They also break apart, often with sounds like a cannon firing.

-- David G. Brown
 

Kyrila Scully

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David, since we're on the subject, I would like you to comment on the suggestion by Daniel Allen Butler that it takes 30 minutes for frost to form on a capsized berg, therefore giving the Titanic a 30-minute window of not being able to see the berg until they were too close. I don't know if we've ever discussed this theory on the board before, and I think it's worth discussion.

Kyrila
 
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Wayne Keen

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Interesting. I wonder how that time varies with other atmospheric and sea conditions.

Wayne
 

T. Eric Brown

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The time it takes for the berg to frost back over often depends on the weather. The warmer it is, the longer it takes to frost over. Times may range from half an hour to never. If the Gulf Stream is more powerful and warmer in a given year, then blue bergs would be more common. I don't know if that kind of meteorological data exists for 1912, probably not.
 
Oct 28, 2000
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I can see no scientific reason why ice should not "frost over" like any other solid material under the correct conditions. However, I believe this is not the process by which icebergs appear white to the eye.

Think of the color of a fiberglass boat or of a car manufactured before modern clear topcoats. On both vehicles, the outer surface eventually dulls and gets a light "haze" over the color. (Ignoring for the moment the loss of pigment due to ultraviolet exposure.) This "haze" is really microscopic pitting of the surface. The original color will return if you fill those pits with a clear substance. This is why waxing a boat or car "deepens" the color and makes it look newer.

A similar weathering takes place to the surface of the ice of an iceberg. It is the combination of sunlight, air temperature, moisture in the air, and other factors. The pitting of the ice is not as microscopic as that of paint or fiberglass. However, the effect on the eye is the same. The weathering causes the berg to reflect all wavelengths of light and, thus, appear "white" to our eyes.

If a berg did not weather, and if it were perfectly frozen with no internal imperfections, it would be nearly crystal clear. A floating diamond, if you will. That doesn't happen in the real world, but with care you can make a virtually transparent ice cube in your home freezer.

If Titanic's nemesis berg capsized and pointed its former underbody toward the ship, the berg would have appeared "dark" at night. How long would it have remained dark? Probably at least a half hour, but I suspect much longer in the still (air and wave) and clear (low humidity) conditions of that night.

All that said, I am of the opinion that had it been daylight, the fatal berg would have been visible when it capsized. That event probably happened within 20 minutes or less of impact. But, that's just a guess and not even a scientific guess at that.

-- David G. Brown
 
Aug 14, 2005
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It could be possible that providing the ice was white and the night was a black or blue hue that the white of the berg reflected the textures of the sky. Especially providing that April 14/15th was a moonless night.
 

Kyrila Scully

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James, this discussion has been made in other threads. If someone doesn't provide a link for you or move this thread to the appropriate link, you might search for it yourself and find all the discussion for this subject.

Kind regards,
Kyrila
 
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