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Between the Pages: Iceberg Ahead!

September 18, 2012

On April 15, 1912, Titanic, the world’s largest ship of its time, sank after colliding with an iceberg, claiming more than 1,500 lives and shaking the world’s confidence in the infallibility of modern technology. One hundred years later, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, which showcases 200 artifacts retrieved from the wreck site of Titanic, arrives at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and opens to the public September 29, 2012.

I remember the first time I learned about the Titanic I was in 4th grade. I couldn’t believe that a ship that large could sink by hitting, literally, a giant ice cube in the ocean.  It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that the sinking of the ocean liner RMS Titanic was one of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century. In a mere four hours after striking an iceberg, the largest passenger ship yet built sank while on its maiden voyage. The sinking of the Titanic, which had been popularly regarded as unsinkable, punctured the aura of man’s triumph over nature that had grown out of the Industrial Revolution and the Progressive Era.

To better understand the battle the Titanic had with nature, scientists looked to the iceberg.  Icebergs are pieces of ice that formed on land and float in an ocean or lake. Icebergs come in all shapes and sizes, from ice-cube-sized chunks to ice islands the size of a small country. The term “iceberg” refers to chunks of ice larger than 5 meters (16 feet) across. Smaller icebergs, known as bergy bits and growlers, can be especially dangerous for ships because they are harder to spot. The North Atlantic and the cold waters surrounding Antarctica are home to most of the icebergs on Earth. Scientists have discovered that the iceberg that sank the Titanic began its slow journey to the North Atlantic over three thousand years ago. Again, they can only guess at the exact details, but the story likely began with snowfall on the western coast of Greenland somewhere around 1,000 BCE. After a few months, this snow has been turned into a more compacted form called firn, which then over subsequent decades is compressed into dense ice by the weight of newer snow on top of it. Icebergs can also serve as tools for scientists, who study them to learn more about climate and ocean processes. For more information about icebergs visit the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

But that really is only the tip of the iceberg. The Titanic tells a story of society, triumph, tragedy, and technology. The exhibit will provide visitors with the opportunity to discover how the ‘unsinkable’ ship met its tragic end and connect with the passengers and crew, as they view haunting artifacts recovered from the wreck during the eight research and recovery expeditions conducted by RMS Titanic, Inc. since the ship’s discovery in 1985.

T is for TitanicIf you plan on bringing the family, or just want to learn more before you come, I recommend reading T Is for Titanic: A Titanic Alphabet by Debbie Shoulders. It is written as an alphabet highlighting facts about the Titanic. Pick a letter for every day leading up to your visit!

For additional book options check out this book list.

For more information about the exhibit visit the Museum’s website.

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