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A century of tracking icebergs
April 16, 2012 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Three thousand years ago, snow fell on Greenland, creating what would become an iceberg in this century. Centuries pass and snow piles up, until it is 60 to 70 meters thick and forms glacial ice. As glaciers slowly flow into the ocean, the end of the glaciers calve, or break off. In Greenland, some 40,000 medium to large sized icebergs calve each year, making their way south. Of the 10,000 to 15,000 icebergs annually calved from glaciers in the Arctic, on the average only 375 pass Newfoundland into the North Atlantic Ocean. On April 14, 1912, an iceberg was some 5,000 miles south of the Arctic Circle when a boat ran into it, leaving a smear of red paint along the base of the berg.

The lifespan of an iceberg is relatively short, an average of two to three years from calving to melting into the ocean. The iceberg that sank the Titanic is long gone, but iceberg alley was still an area of concern for safety in the ship lanes of the North Atlantic. The sinking of the Titanic lead to a number of changes in safety practices, including the formation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Ahead of the international convention, the U.S. Navy assigned the cruisers USS Chester and USS Birmingham to patrol the Grand Banks for the remainder of 1912. This was the North Atlantic Ice Patrol, which became the International Ice Patrol in 1913, who have been active since then, tracking icebergs in the North Atlantic.

Iceberg Finder tracks bergs along the Newfoundland and Labrador coast, more for tourism than shipping, and Ice Data keeps track of ship collisions with icebergs (old version with chronological listing).

The ocean off of Newfoundland was empty in July 2010, but the huge ice island that broke free from the Petermann glacier in 2010 lead to iceberg alley once again living up to its namesake in 2011.
posted by filthy light thief (34 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was just whining this morning that the iceberg gets the short end of the stick when it comes to writing about the Titanic. This post is great!
posted by troika at 12:50 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do not like looking out the window midway through a trans-Atlantic flight and seeing chunks of white drifting around the ocean thousands of feet below. As if I'd survive the plane falling that far anyways.
posted by bendybendy at 1:00 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ship. Boats are carried by ships. ( Well, excepting subs these days.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:01 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alternate iceberg candidate.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:01 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somewhere, in a hidden seaport, the remaining lifeboats from Titantic plot revenge against their ancient and icy foes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:03 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker: Ship. Boats are carried by ships

Ah, thanks. Boat vs Ship. Another thing I learned today.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:04 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heinrich events, first described by marine geologist Hartmut Heinrich, occurred during the last glacial period, or "ice age". During such events, armadas of icebergs broke off from glaciers and traversed the North Atlantic. The icebergs contained rock mass eroded by the glaciers, and as they melted, this matter was dropped onto the sea floor as "ice rafted debris". Scientists drilling through marine sediments can distinguish six distinct events in cores of mud retrieved from the sea floor, which are labelled H1-H6 going back in time; there is some evidence that H3 and H6 differ from other events.

Not apropos of the Titanic, but something I learned recently whilst dilettanteing in Climate Science.
posted by Danf at 1:05 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Danf: your link is really on the cutting edge.
posted by hal9k at 1:07 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you hal9k. . .I'll try to get it changed. . .nice pun though.
posted by Danf at 1:10 PM on April 16, 2012


He'll remove a toe every hour until the rANsoM iS paiD. tHEN hell STarT on THE toES.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:13 PM on April 16, 2012


Fingers eVEn.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:13 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mad Joe
posted by the cuban at 1:16 PM on April 16, 2012


[Fixed.]
posted by cortex at 1:17 PM on April 16, 2012


[not quite there yet]
posted by Danf at 1:19 PM on April 16, 2012


[man, who gave me the keys to this place]
posted by cortex at 1:22 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Clean up on Aisle 9!
posted by Big_B at 1:24 PM on April 16, 2012


This might make me incredibly boring, because it's probably akin to watching grass grow or paint dry, but spotting icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland was a rather enjoyable part of my trip out to the island earlier this year.
posted by asnider at 1:37 PM on April 16, 2012


On April 15, 1912, the iceberg was some 5,000 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

Dang, it was all the way down in Brazil? Now that is news.
posted by crapmatic at 1:40 PM on April 16, 2012


I like how the io9 article title is 'What ever happened to the iceberg that sank the Titanic?' It melted, ya fuckin' idiot.
posted by ZaneJ. at 1:43 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


This might make me incredibly boring, because it's probably akin to watching grass grow or paint dry, but spotting icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland was a rather enjoyable part of my trip out to the island earlier this year.

I'm not sure who finds spotting icebergs boring, but it's absolutely one of the highlights of a trip to Newfoundland. Pretending like you and the local speak the same language is one of the others.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


An iceberg in Brazil, imagine the drinks that could be chilled for Carnival...
posted by dejah420 at 1:45 PM on April 16, 2012


Pretending like you and the local speak the same language is one of the others.

I'm from Alberta. I'm already fluent.

posted by asnider at 1:51 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like how the io9 article title is 'What ever happened to the iceberg that sank the Titanic?' It melted, ya fuckin' idiot.

I recently discovered that some otherwise well educated appearing people I know didn't realize the Titanic was an actual ship that really ran into an iceberg and sank and it's wasn't something made up for a movie. Quite the jaw dropper; almost at the level of "astronauts didn't float off the moon because they were wearing heavy boots". I'm horrified at the thought that I might have some major misinformation lurking around in my brain.
posted by Mitheral at 2:04 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


@Mitheral - there were some tweets to that effect being floated around last week. I assumed that half a dozen out of the gazillion Twitter users does not a trend make. You really know people first hand who didn't know this?
posted by tippiedog at 2:31 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coming Winter 2012. Iceberg (3D)
View Trailer -->
Image: An iceberg drifts in the Atlantic Ocean.
Voiceover (Werner Herzog): Now that I have escaped from the cold barren world that held me for so long, I am free to drift without concern. The lightness of my being cannot be described by mere words. At last, I have found true inner peace.
Image: A large ship runs into the iceberg.
Voiceover: What the hell is this! What have you done? Is this vast ocean not large enough that you cannot leave me alone, to drift in silence? You will pay dearly for this, ship.
posted by perhapses at 2:34 PM on April 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


My sister and I were playing Carcassonne with her roommate and the roommate's friend. We were talking about the Titanic anniversery and the roommate's friend was flabbergasted once she realized we were talking about a real event.

I've seen this a few times with different events. Back when North Korea's nuclear test was in the news a cousin (admittedly at the time only 17) didn't realise that other countries besides the US and USSR had nuclear weapons. The War of 1812 is relatively unknown and even those who have heard of it don't realise it wasn't fought only in 1812. And I had a heck of a time convincing a guy in a bar (in California) that Polar Bears were a distinct thing and not just Grizzly/Black bears with a winter coat.
posted by Mitheral at 3:20 PM on April 16, 2012


I was speaking to my friend some weeks ago, and as such looming commemorations are wont to arouse stories in people, he told me about his Titanic connection. My friend's great uncle was John Hesketh, the second engineer of the Titanic, and the man who got nearer to the fatal iceberg than anybody else. There had been a coalfire aboard the ship since it left France, and various attempts had been made to put it out. On the evening of the 14 April he was down in the hold checking on whether the fire had gone or not, when all at once the iceberg smashed into the hull, shearing and buckling the plates, and flooding the room with ice water. He survived the initial collision, shut some of the bulkheads to lessen the flooding, but reported to Captain Smith that the damage was really bad and that the ship was likely doomed. He died with the ship.
posted by Jehan at 3:27 PM on April 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


There had been a coalfire aboard the ship since it left France, and various attempts had been made to put it out. On the evening of the 14 April he was down in the hold checking on whether the fire had gone or not,

A coal fire?

Next theory of what went wrong on the Titanic: the judgment of responsible officers was impaired by carbon monoxide poisoning.
posted by jamjam at 4:14 PM on April 16, 2012


Ah, thanks. Boat vs Ship. Another thing I learned today.

Note that there are some vessels that can carry ships., but they're not exactly something you'd take a voyage in.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:29 PM on April 16, 2012


Lost somewhere in a move or due to a forgotten loan is my copy of Voyage of the Iceberg, the Titanic story as told from the point of view of, well....
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:30 PM on April 16, 2012


Huh, interesting about the term calving, ice calving.

Iceberg tsunami | iceberg flipping over | one of my old faves, iceberg sightseers witness one lucky penguin | "welcome to the epicenter of global warming" | Iceberg as a drug, heh.
posted by nickyskye at 4:30 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Three thousand years ago, snow fell on Greenland, creating what would become an iceberg in this century.

Which in turn is how we get bottled mammoth pee today.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:49 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


A coal fire?

Next theory of what went wrong on the Titanic: the judgment of responsible officers was impaired by carbon monoxide poisoning.


Supposedly, they were very common aboard coal powered ships. There's even a theory that the reason why the Titanic was going so swiftly was through the need to get rid of coal from one of its lit bunkers. It's likely nonsense, although I can only imagine how the two situations made for a wonderful irony:

Captain Smith: What news Hesketh?
Hesketh: So much Captain, good and bad! Which would you like first?
Captain Smith: Well, I'm an optimist, so give me the good news first.
Hesketh: The coalfire's out Captain. It was extinguished at about 11.40pm.
Captain Smith: Why, that's wonderful! How on earth did you ever get it under control?
Hesketh: Well Captain, that's the bad news. We seem to have had a little help from an iceberg...
posted by Jehan at 4:49 PM on April 16, 2012


Bill Sauder's Most Memorable Moment with Titanic Artifacts...
posted by nickyskye at 4:57 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


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