Theory On Titanic Sinking Based On Local Scientist's Work

Theory Draws On SDSU Adjunct Astronomy Professor Andrew Young's Work On Mirages

A local scientist's work is the basis of a startling theory about why the Titanic really sank.

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Amid the re-release of the film "Titanic" and a cruise tracing the doomed voyage, there is some stunning new research by a Titanic historian from Britain, Tim Maltin, which draws heavily from San Diego State University adjunct astronomy professor Andrew Young and his work on mirages.

"When you see the mirage of water in a desert, you're really seeing a reflection of the sky," said Young.

As light travels through air with different temperatures – from warm air to the sizzling desert ground – the air bends and distorts images. In some cases, it creates a haze-like effect.

"In mirage conditions, you can actually see a lot farther than usual, but you're looking through a lot more air," said Young. "You're seeing a lot of light scattered by all that air, creating what appears to be haze."

A similar mirage effect happens on the cold ocean's surface.

Maltin's research confirms that conditions that night were ripe to possibly produce a haze that would make things difficult to see. His idea is that mirage conditions reduced the visibility of the iceberg enough to the point that it was not noticed until it was too late.

Maltin pointed to witness descriptions of a distant haze. In one section of the official Titanic inquiry, a crewmate described the iceberg as a dark mass that came through the haze.

He also believes the mirage effect struck again when the crew of a ship in the vicinity, the Californian, did not assist because the mirage distorted the Titanic's image.

"They thought it was a much smaller ship and more nearby than it actually was," said Young.

Still, Young remains skeptical.

"I can't say Maltin's wrong, but I can't say he's a made a convincing argument either," he said.

Young said the haze effect was about 20 miles from the iceberg and doubts it would have obscured the iceberg completely.

He also said once the ship came within about a mile of the iceberg, the mirage effect should have gone away.

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