Titanic's revenge

By Phil Plait | September 9, 2011 7:00 am

About a year ago, an enormous iceberg split off the Petermann glacier in Greenland. Taken by the current, it headed south, and just last month was off the coast of Labrador. The iceberg was over 20 km (12 miles) long.

On August 22, NASA’s Terra satellite took a look at it and saw this:

I have nothing much to add here, except to make sure you understand that a chunk of ice significantly bigger than Manhattan Island broke in half.

Ships aren’t alive, and even if they were the existence of their souls would be in doubt. But still, the idea appeals to me that somewhere, somehow, the Titanic is laughing.

Image credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Related posts:

Enormous glacier calves in largest arctic event seen in 48 years
Ice island heading south off Labrador
Titanic iceberg headed for Australia
Dramatic glacial retreat caught by NASA satellite

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (30)

  1. Not sure if the Titanic is laughing, or we have “mother Gaia” giving us a hint.

    NSFW language in on bubble: http://humon.deviantart.com/art/Mother-Gaia-207388674

  2. Tom

    Why don’t we tow those ice cubes down to Texas? Beach them off Corpus Christi, slice them into single TEU chunks and drive them into the countryside to let them melt. Boom! Drought? Over. Wildfires? Extinguished. Jobs? Created.

  3. hhEb09'1

    It is bigger than Manhattan, Tom :)

  4. Miek

    Dr. Plait, any comments on the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite?

    *Puts his reporter fedora on*

  5. Isn’t the rain deficit of Texas something like 25 inches over the whole state for this year alone? Add to that the pre-existing drought condition, and it would take literally trillions of gallons of water to help the state. Those ice bergs would pretty much do nothing, and I’m sure there are other ways to get water to Texas than trying to haul icebergs to its shores.

  6. Has anyone warned PEI yet, that thing will sink them.

  7. dani, the lace geek

    @Tom, i think that they tried that in Daniel da Cruz’s Republic of Texas trilogy… they ended up having to secede and then attack Russia…

  8. Pete Jackson

    “Click on the image to titanicate”

  9. Pete Jackson

    They’re actually doing a Titanic memorial cruise next April (2012) to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. To make it fully realistic, they’re going to travel at night at full speed through the area with no radar or GPS. And only Morse code for radio. And the ship will only have half the number of lifeboats needed to hold everybody in case they have to abandon ship.

    Just kidding, but they really are doing a cruise. You can search it. Hopefully, they will have inspiration and sign on Phil as a speaker/guide!

    The moon will be at last quarter on April 12, so the sky should be dark around 11:40 PM on April 14th, marking the exact 100th anniversary. The moon was new on the night of April 14-15 1912, so the sky stayed dark all night, even as the rescue ships finally arrived.

  10. Tom

    Is it possible the once-monolithic berg is sending us a message? It is off the coast of Labrador, and those two shapes look vaguely familiar…

    Labrador *Hearts* *Bart Simpson* ???

  11. Wait on, Terra is looking at the oceans – isn’t that Aqua‘s job? ūüėČ

    But still, the idea appeals to me that somewhere, somehow, the Titanic is laughing.

    The “somehow” I can’t answer for but the “somewhere” is pretty clear – the bottom of the Atlantic ocean a lot of fathoms down. The old wreck ain’t going anywhere. ūüėČ

    @2. Tom : Brings back fond memories of a no doubt utterly obscure SF novel called Gallaghers Glacier by Walt & Leigh Richmond (Ace Books,1970.) starring a whole starship made out of ice.

    I also think the British – or was it US – govt actually planned to build an aircraft carrier out of a huge iceberg at one stage maybe during WW II. Right?

  12. Captain Obvious

    Why would Titanic be laughing? I don’t get it.

  13. @Captain Obvious (#12), the iceberg broke. I know, anthropomorphizing a bit too much, but that’s what I took away from it (with the added parenthetical that no ship was broken by said iceberg).

  14. gdave

    @Messier Tidy Upper:

    I believe you are referring to Project Habakkuk, a British proposal during WWII. Although inspired by icebergs, it actually would have involved making an aircraft carrier out of a mix of wood pulp and ice (“pykrete”). A scale model ( a mere 1000 tons) may have been successfully floated in a Canadian lake (I’ve seen some sources claim it lasted for a whole summer afloat, but there seems to be some dispute about whether it was actually ever floated). “Mythbusters” also did a segment on it, and used their own, supposedly superior version of pykrete made out of frozen newspapers, which quickly melted.

  15. BJN

    Titanic is an idiot. The broken iceberg floats just as well in two parts.

  16. Joe Alvord

    The iceberg broke, but it still lasted longer than the Titanic, I think.

  17. Josie

    Aren’t the icebergs made of salt water? If so even if we could tote them to Texas to water crops I don’t think we’d like the result.

  18. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Josie : Er, no. Icebergs are made of fresh water usually, methinks.

    @14. gdave : Yup. That sounds like the one. Thanks. :-)

    @4. Miek : “Dr. Plait, any comments on the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite?”

    Which satellite would that be? Could you elaborate please?

  19. vel

    I suspect that this satellite is the one that Faux Noise and friends have been baying about.

  20. Joe

    Just because I could, I identified the coastline in the photo. It is the east side of the north peninsula of the Island of Newfoundland, near the town of Englee. The island nearest the icebergs is Bell Island (88 km2), with Groais Island (41 km2) above that. Manhattan Island is 60 km2. Together, the 2 iceberg halves appear about the size of Groais Island. That would make them about only 2/3 the size of Manhattan. Still F—ing big. (all numbers from Wikipedia)

  21. apophys

    “It’s the size of Texas, mr. president!”

  22. Olof S

    Messier Tidy Upper THANK YOU! Ive had rememberances of Gallaghers glacier since I read it some 20-25 yrs ago. Never could remember the title. ūüėÄ

  23. Joseph G

    @19 Vel: Re fox/satelite – What have they been saying?

  24. CR

    Slightly off topic, but the ‘Mother Gaia’ comic that Larian linked to was hilarious!

  25. Impulse725

    @17 “An iceberg is a large piece of ice from freshwater that has broken off from a snow-formed glacier or ice shelf and is floating in open water.”

    Sea ice is the general term for seawater than freezes over. It’s actually mostly freshwater by the time it freezes as most salt is shed in the freezing process.

  26. @22. Olof S : No worries. :-)

    @19. vel : “I suspect that this satellite is the one that Faux Noise and friends have been baying about.”

    Can you be a little more specific please? Which satellite?

    In other news, the GRAIL has been lifted and is now Moon bound.

    NASA GRAIL Mission to the Moon Under Way
    Sat, 10 Sep 2011 10:51:58 PM UTC+0930

    NASA’s GRAIL mission to study the moon from crust to core successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Pad SLC-17B at 9:08 a.m. EDT. Mission controllers will await communication in approximately 90 minutes from the lunar duo indicating they have achieved proper orientation and deployed their solar arrays. “We are on our way, and early indications show everything is looking good,” said David Lehman, GRAIL project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “We will know more about GRAIL’s status in a few hours, after an opportunity to analyze telemetry and poll our mission controllers.”

    Click on my name for source.

  27. TR

    I don’t know about Bart Simpson, but he looks a little bit like Calvin, and he’s a dead-ringer for Big Nate!

  28. Gary Ansorge

    20. Joe

    At 20 km long and about half that wide, that iceberg would total about 200 km^2, significantly larger than Manhattan Islands 87.5km^2(per Wikipedia). Also remember, 9/10ths of an iceberg is below water. That 20 km long chunk is only the visible portion.

    It’s a really big ice cube. Even Texas would have a problem putting that in a glass.

    Gary 7

  29. If I ever was in a position to own one of those ice-breaker ships, I’d name her Titanic’s Revenge :)

    I can also imagine an SMBC comic based on this idea.


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