Did an Optical Illusion Cause the Titanic Disaster?

Anyone who knows about the doomed ship Titanic knows that it was sunk due to hitting an iceberg. But what continues to puzzle researchers and historians is why none of the lookouts on the ship saw the massive rock of ice in time to save the ship and the more than 1500 people who died in the frigid waters of the Atlantic in 1912.

Now some researchers believe that a rare optical illusion might have caused the Titanic to miss seeing the iceberg until it was too late to avoid.

cbsnews1.cbsistatic.com

The optical illusion in question is called a Fata Morgana, and they have been plaguing sailors and vessels all throughout history. The name Fata Morgana comes from the Latin word for fairy (fata) and the name of the witch from King Arthur (Morgan Le Fay). It gets this name because the illusions were originally believed to be caused by witches trying to lure ships into danger.

The night of the Titanic disaster was calm and clear, which is why it is so hard to understand how the iceberg was missed. But these calm conditions are the perfect time for the Fata Morgana to appear. They occur when a layer of warm air floats above a layer of colder air. The layers act as a refracting lens, causing objects to appear somewhere other than their true location.

It is possible that this refraction effect caused the sea around the iceberg to create a false horizon. This fake horizon then could have obscured the iceberg from view until the ship was too close to avoid hitting it. The moonless night aggravated this condition by making it even harder to see.

The Fata Morgana also helps explain why The Californian, the nearest ship to the Titanic, failed to go to the aid of the passengers who were drowning in the Atlantic. The crew of that ship ignored the Titanic as it was sinking. It is possible that they did so because the optical illusion made the Titanic seem much smaller than it really was. In fact, the captain of that ship later claimed that the ship he saw that night looked nothing like the Titanic. He thought the large ocean liner was further away and that the ship he saw was a smaller cargo vessel. He assumed that the Titanic was further away and still had time to avoid the iceberg. When the ship sank, he thought it was just sailing away. This makes sense if a Fata Morgana distorted what he was seeing. The stratified air layers also distorted the warning and distress signals that the two ships tried to send to each other. Neither vessel received the signals from the other. Had the messages been received, The Californian may have been able to save hundreds of Titanic passengers from a watery grave.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • 4,000-Year-Old Prenup

    In recent news, researchers just discovered a 4,000-year-old prenup which talks about surrogacy and infertility. Researchers then went on to look further into the discovery of this 4,000-year-old Assyrian marriage contract. The marriage contract is a clay tablet between a man named Laqipum and his wife, Hatala. When translated, the text stated that if the...

    Read More
  • New Exoplanet May Be Able to Support New Life

    In most recent news, a team of Scientists just announced a new, epic discovery. What is it? It’s a potentially habitable exoplanet about the size of Earth. It’s said to be orbiting a dim dwarf star around eleven light years away. The name of this new exoplanet has been named Ross 128b after the red...

    Read More
  • The Plague That Caused People to Dance Themselves to Death

    On an otherwise unremarkable July day in early 16th century Strasbourg (now in France), a woman known as Frau Troffea ran into the street and began dancing. There was no music being played, and it wasn’t a holiday or day of celebration, yet, for reasons unknown, she felt compelled to dance. She continued her solo...

    Read More
  • The Plastic-Eating Caterpillar That Could Help Save the Planet

    An amateur Spanish beekeeper recently made a discovery that could have a major impact in our planet’s fight against pollution and global warming. While tending to her beehives, she removed some wax worms from them, since they are pests that are parasitic towards bee colonies. To get rid of them, she put them in an...

    Read More
  • This Town Has Been on Fire for More Than 50 Years

    The borough of Centralia is located in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. In the late 1800s it was a thriving anthracite coal mining town with a population of close to 3,000, but as of 2013 the population is no more than seven. The diminished population is the result of an underground coal...

    Read More
  • Strange Face in the MRI Machine

    Being in charge of brain scans for a major research lab can be quite challenging. It’s no lie that you get to witness a lot of strange and interesting findings. A man with the name of Ben Inglis manages the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facility at The University of California, Berkeley Brain Imaging Center. He...

    Read More
  • The World’s Most Glamorous Train

    The Orient Express has been noted as being the world’s most glamorous train, but how did it get that title?  Well, the story of The Orient Express takes off in the 1860’s when the concept of globetrotting tourism was still fairly new.  For years, the ultra-rich had been the only people that could afford to...

    Read More
  • The Chapel of Bones

    This interesting chapel; located in Evora, Portugal; called the Capela dos Ossos.  This place has definitely been receiving some attention on social media.  This chapel is a smaller portion of a larger, bone free church compound.  The name of that larger church complex is Igreja de Sao Francisco.  Inside this amazing bone chapel, it’s lined...

    Read More