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Titanic: The Final Mystery 
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Titanic: The Final Mystery
Just when I thought I'd seen it all on the Titanic, along comes this 2012 Smithsonian Channel documentary with a fascinating and compelling theory from a British researcher. Debunking many common myths about the Titanic (weak seams, substandard hull metal, lazy lookouts, drunk captain, speeding), he explains several enigmas of that night, such as the "mystery" ship that failed to respond to Titanic's frantic signals with a simple explanation: refraction. A mirage. Caused by a drop in water temperature of 30 degrees in half a mile as the Titanic encountered the Labrador current carrying the icebergs. A mirage that concealed the iceberg until it was 37 seconds away instead of the 12 mile visibility that the lookouts thought they had. Simple, compelling, backed up by contemporaneous records, and yet totally new to me. Well worth a gander.


Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:10 pm
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PITA Bred
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Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:17 pm
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Post Re: Titanic: The Final Mystery
This book or documentary comes along at intervals, each time purporting to solve mysteries real and imagined. About every five years, someone "solves" the real mystery of Titanic's sinking.

There hasn't been any new data since the complete Ballard exploration; what happens is every few years someone rewrites the material and imagines they've found something new or "proof" of some vague fact. Or better yet, someone does yet another "computer reconstruction" or "model" and presents it as fact, despite the (real) fact that most such models are simplistic, geared to an expected result and discredited within a few years. I am less inclined to accept findings of things done for television, because they lean heavily on things that can be shown visually ("...this artist's conception of a mirage...") and not on the rather boring facts (like, the excellent evidence that the mystery ship was an error in reporting).

The thing to remember in titanology is that until Ballard found the wreck, there was 95% certain consensus that the ship went down in one piece. Those who claimed otherwise were cranks. Go check all books written before 1985; I'll wait. ...Once it was found broken in half, everyone suddenly noticed the plethora of qualified reports describing the ship breaking in two on the surface. Golly gee. Mystery solved.

But five years from now there will be another compelling book (or e-quivalent) with Completely New & Different Theories. The emphasis here is on compelling - there are few stories in modern history that hit the level of Titanic in that respect, so the quest to understand will go on forever.


Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:01 am
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Re: Titanic: The Final Mystery
Fair enough. But this researcher did dig up new data. The Titanic's logs of ocean and air temperature were lost. The data collected by other ships existed digitally in only one place - NOAA North Carolina - and was severely elided. He tracked it down to paper records in the UK and Germany, underground archives, and found records of huge temperature drops in the area that the Titanic went down. Also some ships logged "Great refraction" in that area - the phenomenon was known. Why it was apparently not mentioned in the official inquiries is odd to me.

Whether the theory is accurate or not requires independent critical evaluation - of course the show is only going to present what makes the idea look good. But it's interesting and plausible.


Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:27 am
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Post Re: Titanic: The Final Mystery
In any case, the stories of the aftermath - debris and body recovery, burials, the hearings on both sides of the pond, the sad and shadowy life of Bruce Ismay - is almost a more fascinating story than the disaster itself. I long for someone to make a good miniseries picking up from the end of the films.


Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:04 pm
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