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Did the Titanic Sink Due To an Optical Illusion? 166

Hugh Pickens writes "According to new research by British historian Tim Maltin, records by several ships in the area where the Titanic sank show atmospheric conditions were ripe for super refraction, a bending of light that caused a false horizon, concealing the iceberg that sank the Titanic in a mirage layer, which prevented the Titanic's lookouts from seeing the iceberg in time to avoid collision. According to the new theory, Titanic was sailing from Gulf Stream waters into the frigid Labrador Current, where the air column was cooling from the bottom up. This created a thermal inversion, with layers of cold air below layers of warmer air, creating a superior mirage. The theory also explains why the freighter Californian was unable to identify the Titanic on the moonless night, because even though the Titanic sailed into the Californian's view, it appeared too small to be the great ocean liner. The abnormally stratified air may also have disrupted signals sent by the Titanic by Morse Lamp to the Californian to no avail. This is not the first time atmospheric conditions have been postulated as a factor in the disaster that took 1,517 lives. An investigation in 1992 by the British government's Marine Accident Investigation Branch also suggested that super refraction may have played a role in the disaster (PDF, see page 13), but that possibility went unexplored until Maltin mined weather records, survivors' testimony and long-forgotten ships' logs."

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