Iceberg Location Report - April 15, 1912

This image depicts an official memo from the U.S. Hydrographic Office issued on the 15th of April, 1912. It indicates that Titanic had struck an iceberg, that her bow was damaged but no one (at that moment) knew how badly she was injured.

Five months after the disaster, the same office issued its report: “The Titanic Disaster, Steamship Lanes, and the Establishment of the Ice Patrol: The 1912 Report of the Hydrographer, U.S. Navy.” It contains some useful factual information as well as recommendations:

5. On Sunday, the 14th of April, about 10 p.m., the White Star steamer Titanic struck an iceberg in latitude 41 46' north, longitude 50 14' west, and sank in about three hours. The loss of life resulting from this accident was frightful, 1,517 people having perished as a direct result. The accident startled the world and set people, particularly seamen, to thinking very deeply. It had been supposed by very many, perhaps the majority of people, that the Titanic and other great steamships were not sinkable. The fact that she did sink from collision with an iceberg, and in a comparatively short time, aroused the world to the realization of the fact that the unsinkable ship has not yet arrived, and the best safeguard against accidents at sea is now, as it always has been and always will be, constant and unremitting vigilance and heeding warnings of dangers. It is a lamentable fact and a remarkable coincidence that the sinking of the Titanic was caused by an iceberg the report of which she had transmitted by radio.

6. Naturally, when news of the sinking was received at the Hydrographic Office, those in charge looked over the records to make doubly sure that all news that the office had received of ice had been given to the steamship lines. Such was found to be the fact. On the Pilot Chart of April, 1912, Hydrographic Bulletin of April 10, and the Daily Memoranda of April 10, 11, 12, and 13, were given numerous warnings that ice had been seen in the vicinity of the steamship lanes and naturally might be expected to cross those lanes. The information in these Daily Memoranda is furnished by the branch hydrographic offices in the different cities to the maritime interests, and those in New York had the information.

7. On April 12 the Daily Memorandum contained information that numerous icebergs and extensive field ice was sighted in latitude 41 58' north and longitude 50 20' west, on April 11. Certainly some of those bergs might be expected to be in that vicinity three days later. But on April 14 the Hydrographic Office received a telegram transmitted by radio from the Amerika, of the Hamburg-American Line, through the Titanic, stating that two large bergs were in latitude 41 27' north and longitude 50 08' west. In spite of these warnings the Titanic sped on at 22 knots at night and met her doom in latitude 41 46' north and longitude 50 14' west. Had she but heeded the one warning that she transmitted she would probably have saved herself.

8. It is most difficult to see ice at night, but most people do not realize this, and the officers of the Titanic probably considered that they would be able to see a berg far enough away to avoid it. The Hydrographic Office has published a pamphlet giving some means of determining the proximity of ice. It has also published on the back of its Pilot Charts from time to time information concerning the ice and ice movements. This information is always available to mariners and others interested at the main office and at the branch offices.

9. It is earnestly hoped that the steamship companies can be persuaded to adopt a system of forwarding by radio to their vessels on the ocean important information concerning ice and other dangers to navigation. On January 16, 1912, the office sent a circular letter to shipmasters requesting them to make use of the United States naval radio stations or the purpose of reporting to the Hydrographic Office ice or other dangers to navigation. Much of the information the office receives comes by reason of this circular, and it is hoped to extend greatly the service.

10. The office has made some correspondence concerning the advisability of cabling Europe important information concerning dangers to navigation, making the Hydrographic Office a sort of clearing house for sending these cables. If such an agreement can be made, it would be of great benefit to steamers sailing from Europe. Some negotiations looking to this have been conducted by Lieut. John Grady, United States Navy, in charge of the branch office at New York. The Deutshe Seewarte and the British hydrographer think it an excellent idea and believe that it should be established by proper international authority. That is not necessary at all if the owners of the steamship lines and the underwriters are willing to agree to the scheme.

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Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command.



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