The wreckage of the ship that tried to warn the Titanic has been found
The wreckage of a ship that tried to warn RMS Titanic of the iceberg that sank it on its maiden voyage has been found at the bottom of the Irish Sea.
The British merchant steamer SS Mesaba sent a warning radio message to the Titanic on April 15, 1912 as she crossed the Atlantic. The message was received by the Titanic – which was announced as unsinkable – but did not reach the ship’s main control center.
Later that night, the Titanic struck the iceberg and sank. More than 1,500 people died in what remains the world’s most infamous shipwreck.
The Mesaba continued as a merchant ship until she was torpedoed by a German U-boat while in convoy in 1918. Twenty people, including the ship’s commander, died.
Its exact location was unknown for over a century, but scientists have now found the wreckage of the Mesaba using multi-beam sonar. The offshore surveying tool uses sound waves to enable seabed mapping so detailed that the superstructure can be revealed in sonar images, allowing researchers from Bangor University and Bournemouth University in the UK United to positively identify the wreckage in the Irish Sea.
It was the first time that searchers could locate and positively identify the wreckage, according to a press release.
« Pieces of the Puzzle »
Michael Roberts, a marine geoscientist at the University of Bangor in Wales, led the sonar surveys at the university’s School of Ocean Science.
For several years, he has worked with the marine renewable energy sector to study the effect of the ocean on energy production infrastructure. Shipwrecks have proven to be a valuable source of information in this area.
“We knew there were a lot of wrecks in our backyard in the Irish Sea,” Roberts told CNN on Wednesday, adding that they could provide “useful information about what happens when things go at the bottom of the sea ».
But it wasn’t until Roberts began working with Innes McCartney, a maritime archaeologist and researcher at Bangor University, that the « puzzle pieces » began to fit together.
“McCartney was really interested in applying this technology to wrecks to identify them,” Roberts said. The research team began digging deeper into the unsolved mysteries to « uncover their stories ».
« Previously, we would be able to dive a few sites a year to visually identify wrecks. The unique sonar capabilities of Prince Madog (a purpose-built research vessel) allowed us to develop a relatively inexpensive means of examining wrecks. We can link this to historical information without costly physical interaction with each site, » McCartney added in the statement.
Roberts said the cost of finding and identifying each wreck was between £800 ($855) and £1,000 ($1,070).
A « game changer » for marine archeology
A total of 273 wrecks were discovered by Prince Madog spanning 7,500 square miles of the Irish Sea – an area roughly the size of Slovenia.
The wrecks were scanned and cross-checked against the UK Hydrographic Office’s wreck database and other sources.
Many newly identified wrecks, including the Mesaba, had been misidentified in the past, researchers said.
McCartney described the multibeam sonar technique as « a ‘game changer’ for marine archaeology », allowing historians to use the data it provides to fill in gaps in their understanding.
Prince Madog was commissioned by Bangor University and is managed and operated by offshore service provider OS Energy. It « really allows us to go out for up to 10 days at a time and go point-to-point between ships, » Roberts said. « We were doing 15, 20, 25 wrecks a day. It’s the ship that underpins it all. »
The technology used by the ship has the potential to be as effective for marine archaeologists as the use of aerial photography by archaeologists on land, the statement said.
« A lot of these wrecks are in deep water. There’s no light there, so you can’t see much, » Roberts said. « If a diver went down and swam along the wreckage, he would never get the kind of images that we would get because of the scale of these things. There’s so much sediment that you just can’t see everything. «
« So it’s a very effective way to visualize using sound to see something that you can’t see with the naked eye, like an ultrasound during pregnancy. »
While technology has the potential to uncover the stories of all these lost ships, Roberts added that researchers « have also examined these wreck sites to better understand how objects on the seafloor interact with physical and biological processes, which can help scientists support the development and growth of the marine energy sector. »
Details of all the wrecks have been published in a new book by McCartney, « Echoes from the Deep ».