For 100 years it has shouldered the blame for the sinking of the Titanic but now the much-maligned iceberg could be partially forgiven after scientists identified a new culprit – the moon.
Although a collision with a vast tower of ice ultimately brought the passenger liner to its sticky end, it was a freak lunar event three months earlier that put the obstacle in its path, a new study claims.
An incredibly rare combination of astronomical factors including the closest approach of the moon to Earth in 1,400 years caused an unusually high tide in January 1912, researchers found.
This once-in-a-lifetime swell would have swept a vast field of icebergs from their normal resting place off the coast of Canada and caused them to drift further south.
It would have taken them almost exactly three months to reach the shipping lanes where the Titanic sank on April 14 at a cost of 1,500 lives, the scientists reported in Sky & Telescope magazine.
Prof Donald Olson of Texas State University, who led the study, said: “They went full speed into a region with icebergs, that’s really what sank the ship, but the lunar connection may explain how an unusually large number of icebergs got into the path of the Titanic.”