The reason I brought this topic up (since it’s clearly off what I normally write) is because we just watched a documentary about some new theories/added information to that night.
So the questions I ended with yesterday = a ship that was close to the Titanic saw it as a smaller steamer ship. Why? And how did the lookouts not see the giant iceberg?
The latest theories started with a lot of personal accounts about the weather conditions that day.
1) During the day, people were out sunbathing and that at night, people were bundled up as in winter time. And on an informal survey of water temperatures from the area, the researcher found a difference of 40 degrees F within 1 mile of the two samples.
2) The night was so clear that you couldn’t tell where the sky started and where the ocean started. So you had a “fuzzy horizon”
So you have a current bringing colder water and colder temperatures to significantly warmer temperatures. And therefore a pocket of colder air essentially around the Titanic. This leads to mirage effect - a new piece of the puzzle of that night.
Wiki: “Cold air is denser than warm air and, therefore, has a greater refractive index. As light passes from colder air across a sharp boundary to significantly warmer air, the light rays bend away from the direction of the temperature gradient. When light rays pass from hotter to cooler, they bend toward the direction of the gradient. If the air near the ground is warmer than that higher up, the light ray bends in a concave, upward trajectory.”
So what could have potentially happened was the sea, mirrored with all of the stars may have actually miraged to a point where it hid the iceberg and caused the “fuzzy horizon” that was reported in various ships’ logs from that night. So the lookouts pretty much saw a haze rather than an iceberg blocking view of the horizon.
Likewise mirages can “dampen” the height of an object in the distance:
You can see how the island could look like a little blip, or a massive cliff area depending on the mirage. This may explain why the other ship passing couldn’t believe it was the Titanic.
It’s an interesting theory, and the science behind it as a hypothetical is sound, the problem is it ignores survivor accounts. I saw a Titanic historian give a good breakdown of this a few weeks ago, and off the top of my head I can remember that in regards to the iceberg, Fleet did see it when it was still quite a distance away, and on a pitch black night with no waves something is going to have to much closer than it normally would before it begins to become discernible from the background. Fleet’s own memory of it taken from here was
Fleet’s statements included the following, “It was the beautifulest night I ever seen. The stars were like lamps. I saw this black thing looming up; I didn’t know what it was. I asked Lee if he knew what it was. He couldn’t say. I thought I better ring the bell. I rang it three times. We watched the thing. It had a pointed top. We didn’t like the look of this thing. I said to Lee, ‘You’d better go down, there’s no sense the two of us being up here if we strike.’ He didn’t want to go. ‘I can’t do that,’ he said. But I made him and he went down the ladder.” When the berg struck, Lee had climbed back up, joining his friend.
Reade related that the memory of the encounter had haunted Fleet for many years after the wreck. He could not sleep at night, remembering the slow advance of that “black thing.” Eventually, Fleet had gone to a doctor for help, and the former look-out man thought that his companion, Reginald Lee, had also been shocked by the experience. Fleet said that Lee “died of drink many years ago.” [It should be noted that Encyclopedia-Titanica lists the cause of death as pneumonia. Lee died on 6th August 1913. ]
As for the other ships, that’s been a matter of contention since 1912, but the testimony seems to indicate the Titanic and Californian never saw each other directly(California did see the rockets) but saw a 3rd ship. Notably for the fact people on both ships say the ship they saw was moving, and both the Titanic and Californian were stopped in the water. Also I forget exactly how it was, but I believe the running lights saw by the Titanic indicated they were viewing a ship that was facing the wrong way for it to be the Californian.