London: The moon played a key role in sinking luxury passenger liner Titanic which went down in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912 after hitting an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, say astronomers.
An international team, led by Texas State University, says that the iceberg that sank the Titanic was actually sent on its deadly path by the closest approach of the moon to the Earth in 1,400 years, the `Daily Mail` reported.
It was the once-in-a-lifetime lunar event that created an super-high tide on January 12, 1912 -- setting loose a deadly fleet of icebergs, three months before Titanic sank on April 14, 1912, with the loss of some 1,500 lives.
The tide dislodged icebergs from shallow waters off the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland, filling shipping lanes with icebergs. The ice field in the area the Titanic sank was so thick with icebergs responding rescue ships were forced to slow down, say the astronomers.
"The event January 4 was the closest approach of the Moon to the Earth in more than 1,400 years, and it maximized the Moon`s tide-raising forces on Earth`s oceans. That`s remarkable," said team leader Donald Olson.
Normally, icebergs remain in place and cannot resume moving southward until they`ve melted enough to refloat or a high enough tide frees them. A single iceberg can become stuck multiple times on its journey southward, a process that can take several years.
"As icebergs travel south, they often drift into shallow water and pause along the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland. But an extremely high spring tide could refloat them, and the ebb tide would carry them back out into the Labrador Current where icebergs would resume drifting southward.
"That could explain the abundant icebergs in the spring of 1912. We don`t claim to know exactly where the Titanic iceberg was in January 1912 -- nobody can know that – but this is a plausible scenario.
"Of course, the ultimate cause of the accident was that the ship struck an iceberg. But the lunar connection may explain how an unusually large number of icebergs got into the path of the Titanic," Olson said.