Titanic hit a rock


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Mark Baber

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I don't think I've ever come to this part of the Board before. I am neither techie nor marine geologist, so I will leave any discussion of this article to others, and return now to others sections of the Board where I feel more at home.

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The New York Times, 23 April 1912

THINK TITANIC HIT ROCK
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The Nautical Gazette Says This Is at Least Possible
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The suggestion that the Titanic struck a ledge of rock and not an iceberg is made in the current issue of The Nautical Gazette, a weekly shipping paper. The possibility of such an accident is urged because the ship struck in the same longitude as the half-submerged Virgin Rocks, to the north, and possibly in the same spot where the Naronic foundered in 1893.

The Titanic, it is suggested, being the deepest ship of the seas, might have hit a rock that other ships have passed over safely. The Gazette says that at least a survey of the place should be made by the United States Government. Under the head of "What Did She Strike?" The Gazette says:

"A strange possibility arises from the coincidence in proximity of position of the Titanic and the Naronic disasters. The missing Naronic left Liverpool an Feb. 11, 1893, and the only trace of her was the sighting of two of her boats by the steamer Coventry on March 4, in latitude 42 north, longitude 46 west. One was floating keel up and the other riding to an improvised sea anchor made of oars and spars. With the prevalence of westerly winds at that time of year it is conceivable that both boats may have drifted from the same position where the Titanic met her doom, latitude 41.46, longitude 50.14.

This position is south of the Grand Banks, but in just about the same longitude as the dangerous semi-submerged Virgin Rocks, to the north of the Banks. While the Banks of Newfoundland are supposed to be caused by the sands from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the action of the Gulf Stream, the existence of the Virgin Rocks and even the proximity to the surface of the Georges Shoals, nearer the coast, shows that even in this distant part of the Atlantic there may be submerged ledges of rock never hitherto discovered."

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Dave Gittins

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Given the state of surveying at the time, the suggestion is not entirely silly. The depths in the North Atlantic were only known from soundings made by very long lines. Each took ages to do and they were widely scattered. There was always a possibility that a shoal existed somewhere.

To this day, there is what is termed a 'vigia' on the chart at (very roughly) 43° 30'N, 39°W. It's called the Milne Bank. It was reported in 1864 and 1936 and is 102 meters deep. It's marked ED, meaning Existence Doubtful.

The writer of the article would have been well aware that numerous ships had been sunk by uncharted rocks. It might still happen. A pinnacle rock in my home waters was only found in recent years by a survey using lasers carried by an aircraft. It's only two or three metres deeper than the draught of the ships that use the area.
 
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If it hit a rock, why did they report an iceberg scraping alongside the ship? Also, why haven't other large ships, like the QE, QM, QE2, QM2, Olympic, France, Normandie, and many others, hit this so-called "rock" and sunk.
 
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