Were icebergs visible from the deck of the Titanic during the sinking


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Mar 20, 2007
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An idle question from me. Apologies if it has been addressed elsewhere.

As we all know, the 'Titanic' struck an iceberg. But was it a loner? Did the ship founder in a completely empty sea - or were there OTHER bergs in proximity to the ship, visible to those taking to the boats?
 

Bob Godfrey

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The Titanic foundered in an ice field, surrounded by bergs at varying distance. The Carpathia dodged several while racing to the rescue. The bergs and flows were not visible in the darkness from the Titanic or its lifeboats, but at dawn they were clearly seen and there are numerous accounts. Here are Lawrence Beesley's impressions:

Looking towards the Carpathia in the faint light, we saw what seemed to be two large fully rigged sailing ships near the horizon, with all sails set, standing up near her, and we decided like frozen snow rather than translucent ice. As the dawn crept towards us there lay another almost directly in the line between our boat and the Carpathia, and a few minutes later, another on her port quarter, and more again on the southern and
western horizons, as far as the eye could reach.

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Mar 20, 2007
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Thanks Bob. I know that many survivors recalled seeing icebergs as dawn came up - a strangely beautiful, although ghastly, sight. I wasn't sure if the lifeboats had drifted into the field or if the bergs had been in close proximity to the sinking 'Titanic' all along.
 

Dave Gittins

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Boxhall said he could hear water lapping against ice, but he couldn't see any bergs. If he was right, it shows how very dark the night was. Some survivors mentioned dodging bergs on the way to Carpathia in the halt-light. Photos taken from Carpathia suggest that the ice was actually not very dense in the area where the boats were picked up, but a little drama doesn't hurt.
 

Inger Sheil

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Descriptions of those icebergs are quite haunting, I think, Martin - Clear Cameron wrote of the awe they evoked, and a sense of the beauty: "If it hadn’t been for the disaster, the sight of those icebergs would have been splendid for the height of them was miles and miles, such a thing is seldom seen."
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Thanks Dave, thanks Inger. It must have been a really extraordinary sight for survivors - seemingly, little Douglas Spedden's comment about the North Pole was not that short of the mark!

I tend to forget just how dark it was that night, with no moon and - after the 'Titanic' had disappeared - no artificial means of illumination either. Wasn't it Marshall Drew who said that no artist's impression could come close to conveying the all-enveloping blackness? If memory serves, he wrote that it wasn't even possible to discern a horizon.

PS. Who is Clear Cameron?
 

Inger Sheil

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Yes, a remarkable sight - reminds me of some of the Ponting and Hurley photographs taken in Antarctic seas. Perhaps not quite as densely iced, but still remarkable. The darkness must have been very deep - I think it was Lawrence Beesley who recalled only being able to identify someone near him in the lifeboat after he spoke, even though he knew the man, as it was too dark to see any features.

Clear Cameron was a Second Class passenger who left the Titanic in Lifeboat 14 and was transferred to 10. She wrote a series of letters on the Carpathia and the US that were privately published by her nephew in the late 90s.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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A description by Esther Hart that appeared in the Ilford Graphic on May 10, 1912:
Gradually the welcome dawn broke; and as the sun rose and we looked at where the sky and sea met, we saw one of the most wonderful sights that could be imagined. Right away there, stretching for miles and miles, there appeared what seemed to us, an enormous fleet of yachts, with their glistening sails all spread. As the sun grew brighter they seemed to sparkle with innumerable diamonds. They were icebergs; and, moving slowly and majestically along all by itself, a mile or so in length, in form like the pictures of Gibraltar I have seen, was the monster iceberg, the cause of all our trouble.
 
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