Actually, the SS Mesaba alerted the Titanic in good time about impending icebergs. But the huge passenger ship simply ignored them. A few years later, the Mesaba itself was sunk by a German submarine – researchers have now found the wreck of the US steamship.

The night before the Titanic sank, the US steamship SS Mesaba sent her an urgent ice warning – which was ignored. Now researchers have discovered the wreck of the Mesaba, which sank in World War I: the almost 150-meter-long ship lies broken in two amidst hundreds of other wrecks at the bottom of the Irish Sea. Mistaken for another ship, its true identity has only now been revealed by high-resolution sonar mapping.

On April 14, 1912, the then unthinkable happened: The RMS Titanic, celebrated as the most modern and safest passenger ship of her time, collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank. Around 1,500 people died when it sank.

How this could happen, why the ice drifted so far south that spring and why the Titanic sank so quickly is still a matter of debate to this day. What is clear, however, is that the collision with the iceberg could have been avoided – if the crew of the Titanic had reacted correctly.

Actually, there were enough warnings: Just two days before the iceberg collision, the Titanic received the first warnings of pack ice fields and icebergs sighted unusually far to the south.

The master thereupon instructed the seamen on lookout to be vigilant, but continued on course with undiminished speed.

On the evening of April 14, 1912 – a few hours before the accident – another ice warning was received. It came from the American passenger ship SS Mesaba.

“Ice at 42 to 41°25′ north and 50°30′ longitude, saw a lot of thick pack ice and a large number of large icebergs, also an ice field…” the SS Mesaba radioed at 21:30.

At the time of writing, the Titanic was only 80 kilometers from that position – the ice field was right in front of her.

But this important warning never reached the bridge of the Titanic: the radio operator received the message, but was so busy sending messages from the passengers that he put it aside and the accident took its course.

Unlike the Titanic, the steamship Mesaba, built in 1897, was spared icebergs. Her fate did not overtake her until September 1, 1918 – shortly before the end of the First World War. At the time, the Mesaba was part of a convoy traveling from Liverpool, England, to Philadelphia, USA.

In the Irish Sea, off the south-east coast of Ireland, the almost 150 meter long ship was hit by the torpedo of the German submarine U-118 and sank. 20 sailors died, including the captain.

Despite its prominent role in the Titanic disaster and its tragic end, the wreck of the SS Mesaba has not yet been found, partly because of the limited possibilities to search the seabed in this area and the numerous shipwrecks lying there with sufficiently high resolution.

“Previously, we could only search a few locations a year with divers to identify the wrecks there,” explains Innes McCartney of Bangor University.

However, that has changed with a ship with multibeam sonar. “Prince Madog’s unique sonar capabilities have allowed us to survey the shipwrecks in a relatively inexpensive way,” says Innes. In the course of its mapping, the project has located 273 shipwrecks in almost 20,000 square kilometers of the Irish Sea.

Including freighters, fishing trawlers, tankers, passenger ships and even submarines. About half of these wrecks had previously gone undetected or were miscategorized.

Among the newly identified shipwrecks is the SS Mesaba. Her remains were found around 34 kilometers off Tusker Rock on the south east coast of Ireland. The high-resolution sonar images show that the ship broke in two when it sank. They are now bent against each other at the bottom of the sea. The condition of the wreck and its surroundings can now provide more information about her sinking.

Those: Bangor University

This article was written by Nadja Podbregar

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