107 #41: Titanic struck a blue or dark iceberg

Posted by

FALSE. There was some discussion at the Inquiry about whether the iceberg which Titanic struck was a ‘blue’ or ‘dark’ iceberg. It was suggested that this appearance could have been caused by the iceberg having recently capsized. A number of witnesses had described the berg as appearing black, blue, shrouded in mist, or with only a white edge at the top. For example, Lookout Reginald Lee testified:

2441: ‘It was a dark mass that came through that haze and there was no white appearing until it was just close alongside the ship, and that was just a fringe at the top.’

2442: ‘It was a dark mass that appeared, you say?’ ‘Through this haze, and as she moved away from it, there was just a white fringe along the top. That was the only white about it, until she passed by, and then you could see she was white; one side of it seemed to be black, and the other side seemed to be white. When I had a look at it going astern it appeared to be white.’

2443: ‘At that time the ship would be throwing some light upon it; there were lights on your own ship?’ ‘It might have been that.’

That the iceberg Titanic struck was in fact white is confirmed by Quartermaster Rowe, who observed the iceberg from the poop deck, as it passed along the side of the ship:

GTR026: ‘Did you see any ice when on the watch?’

‘No, sir; only when we struck, when we passed it on the starboard side.’

GTR027: ‘About how high was that iceberg?’

‘Roughly, 100 feet, sir.’

GTR028. ‘Was there anything distinctive about the color of that iceberg?’

‘Not a bit, sir; just like ordinary ice.’

GTR029: ‘You saw it as it was brushing by?’

‘Yes, sir. It was very close to the ship, almost touching it.’

The iceberg would have appeared completely white in daylight, but was hard to spot on the moonless night, with no light to reflect from its surface.We know this because Titanic’s Fourth Officer, Joseph G. Boxhall, said that at sunrise on the morning of April 15th, 1912, he saw icebergs at Titanic’s wreck site ‘as far as the eye could see’ which had been invisible in the darkness before dawn, but which had looked black when he saw them at daybreak, and white in the sunlight later on:

JGB803: ‘How did this iceberg look to you? I mean as to colour?’


JGB804: ‘Did they all look about the same colour?’

‘They looked white to me, in the sunlight.’

JGB805: ‘Was the sun up, then?’

‘No; but after the sun got up they looked white.’

JGB806: ‘In the early morning, at the dawn— daybreak?’

‘No; at daybreak they looked quite black.’

That white icebergs can appear completely black and invisible in the dark was confirmed by Captain Rostron of the rescue ship Carpathia. On the morning of April 15th, 1912, he saw a growler (small iceberg) at daylight very close to his ship which he had not seen at all in the dark:

25406: ‘How close was the iceberg which you saw?’

‘Well, when we had stopped, when daylight broke, it was something less than a quarter of a mile away.’ 25407: ‘I should like to follow that to understand it.

Had you seen that iceberg before?’

‘No, it was the first I saw of it. We were close up before we saw it.’

Rostron could not account for his not having seen it before, but said that it was not a ‘dark’ iceberg:

25458: ‘That one we understand, but this last one that you saw about 4 o’clock when you were getting ready to pick up the boat on the port side, was there anything at all special about the colour of that iceberg?’

‘No, but I suppose it must have been because of the shadow or something of that kind that we could not make it out before. I cannot account for it.’

25459: ‘Does it sometimes happen?’

‘Yes, very often.’

25460: ‘It may be, the iceberg presents to you a luminous appearance?’


25461: ‘Or it may be, it presents to you a dark appearance?’


25462: ‘That is what you would ordinarily expect when you are looking out for icebergs, is it?’


If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

Leave a Reply