Ship that sent iceberg warning to the 'Titanic' is found

'SS Mesaba' has been lost in the Irish Sea since 1918

The 'SS Mesaba', the ship which sent an iceberg warning to the 'RMS Titanic' before the ocean liner sank, has been identified lying in the Irish Sea. Photo: Bangor University
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The ship that tried to warn the RMS Titanic that it was on a collision course with an iceberg has been identified, submerged in the Irish Sea.

The merchant steamship SS Mesaba was crossing the Atlantic and sent a warning radio message to the supposedly unsinkable ocean liner which was on its maiden voyage.

That warning went unheeded, though, as the message was received but did not reach the bridge.

Later that night in 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage, killing 1,500 people and becoming the world’s most renowned shipwreck.

Now, advances in technology have revealed lost vessels on the seabed, including the SS Mesaba.

The Mesaba continued as a merchant ship over the next six year, before being torpedoed by a German U-boat while in convoy from Liverpool to Philadelphia in 1918. Twenty people were killed, including the ship's commander.

The 'SS Mesaba', the ship which sent an iceberg warning to the RMS 'Titanic', before the ocean liner sank. Photo: Bangor University

Using state-of-the art multibeam sonar on a purpose-built research vessel called the Prince Madog, researchers at the UK's Bangor University have finally been able to positively identify the wreck. They have also revealed her position for the first time.

Multibeam sonar enables seabed mapping of such information that superstructure details can be revealed on the sonar images.

The Mesaba was one among 273 shipwrecks lying in 7,500 square miles (19,425 square kilometres) of the Irish Sea, which were scanned and cross-referenced against the UK Hydrographic Office’s database of wrecks and other sources.

The 'SS Mesaba', the ship which sent an iceberg warning to the 'RMS Titanic', before the ocean liner sank. Photo: Bangor University

It was thought that 101 wrecks were unidentified, but the number of newly identified wrecks was far higher, as many, the SS Mesaba included, had been wrongly identified in the past.

Details of all the wrecks have been published in a new book, Echoes from the Deep, by Dr Innes McCartney of Bangor University in Wales.

Dr McCartney said the new technique is a "game-changer" for marine archaeology.

The 'Titanic', which sank on its maiden voyage to America in 1912, on trial in Belfast Lough on the east coast of Northern Ireland in 1912. Getty Images

“Previously, we would be able to dive to a few sites a year to visually identify wrecks," he said. "The Prince Madog’s unique sonar capabilities have enabled us to develop a relatively low-cost means of examining the wrecks. We can connect this back to the historical information without costly physical interaction with each site.

"It should be of key interest to marine scientists, environmental agencies, hydrographers, heritage managers, maritime archaeologists, and historians.”

Dr Michael Roberts, who led the sonar surveys at the University’s School of Ocean Sciences, said: “We have also been examining these wreck sites to better understand how objects on the seabed interact with physical and biological processes, which in turn can help scientists support the development and growth of the marine energy sector.”

Updated: September 27, 2022, 3:25 PM
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