Little Bits of History

Iceberg Ahead

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2010

Beautiful iceberg or dangerous iceberg

February 20, 1856: John Rutledge, a steamer on the Liverpool-NY route, hits an iceberg and sinks. There were 120 passengers and 16 crew on board. Both passengers and crew manned the pumps, but they could not overcome the water pouring in. There were enough lifeboats to accommodate all on board. Although some of the passengers panicked, all were off the ship when it sank.

On February 28, the Germania, en route from Havre to NYC picked up one lifeboat containing several dead bodies and Thomas W. Nye, a youth from New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was the only survivor, the other 135 were lost at sea.

Icebergs are up to 90% below the waterline. The shape of the mass above water does not correlate in any meaningful way with what lies beneath the water’s surface. The tallest known North Atlantic iceberg rose 551 feet above sea level.

Most icebergs in the Northern Atlantic come from Greenland which calves approximately 14,000 per year. Of those, 1-2% [400-800 icebergs] make it as far south as 48° north latitude. As a reference, 45° north runs through the middle of the state of Maine; 50° north is just south of the northern tip of the UK. This means that 48° north runs through France. This area is in the midst of shipping lanes between Europe and the US.

After losing the Titanic to one of these behemoths, the International Ice Patrol was formed in 1914 to monitor iceberg movements. At first, monitoring was done by ship, but now surveillance is carried out by air and by radar as well as by satellite.

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together!” – unknown

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” – Grace Murray Hopper

“Often undecided whether to desert a sinking ship for one that might not float, he would make up his mind to sit on the wharf for a day.” – Lord Beaverbrook

“The mass loss resulting from this glacier acceleration in Greenland is very significant. These are very active glaciers. They all end up in the ocean, discharge icebergs and are very dynamic. Once you push them a little bit out of equilibrium, they start retreating very fast.” – Eric Rignot

Also on this day, in 1942 Butch O’Hare almost single-handedly saved the USS Lexington.

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  1. The Met « Little Bits of History said, on February 20, 2011 at 10:14 am

    […] on this day: Iceberg Ahead – In 1856, the ship John Rutledge struck an iceberg and sunk. Butch O’Hare – In 1942, Lt. […]


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