The Titanic Iceberg: A Photo History of Potential Suspects

Stephan Rehorek took this photo while he was on board the German steamer Bremen. (Photo: Photo was made by Stephan Rehorek, who died in 1935 [Public domain]/Wikimedia Commons)

Among the colorful characters and heart-wrenching stories that make up the tragic tale of the Titanic, the one that Mother Nature added to the narrative has perhaps remained the most mysterious.

What history tells us with near certainty is that on the evening of April 14, 1912, on a calm, clear and moonless night (which was extremely rare for the North Atlantic), the Titanic's starboard side glanced off an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. The massive ship had been speeding (around 22 knots or 25 mph) dangerously close to an ice field and may have course-corrected away from it and maneuvered accidentally directly into the path of the deadly berg.

Based on testimony from surviving crew members, the iceberg that doomed Titanic was a "dark-blue mass" between 30-60 feet high above the water line. Seamen Joseph Scarrott, who spied the berg once the ship had passed it, said it resembled in shape "the Rock of Gibraltar" with its highest point to the right.

Photos taken by those on board ships that entered the Titanic's debris field in the hours and days after the tragedy have claimed to show the deadly iceberg. Some vessels were there to retrieve bodies, while others were simply following shipping lanes that took them through the area. One thing is for certain: there was lots of ice and icebergs the night Titanic sank. According to the captain of the Carpathia, the ship that was first on the scene, more than 20 large bergs (some estimated at over 100 feet tall) were observed.

Below are some of the pictures of icebergs taken in the area of the Titanic disaster.

Suspect #1: The Prinz Adalbert Iceberg

Titanic iceberg taken by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert
The iceberg suspected of having sunk the RMS Titanic. This iceberg was photographed by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert on the morning of April 15, 1912, just a few miles south of where the Titanic went down. (Photo: The chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert [public domain]/Wikimedia Commons)

According to sources, this iceberg was photographed from the ship Prinz Adalbert on the morning of April 15, the same day the Titanic sank. Those on the ship thought the berg was strange because of a reported red smear near its base — the same color of the Titanic's keel. The ice, however, does not show signs of impact consistent with a collision. Some have chalked the strange color up to bacteria that often form layers on bergs.

Suspect #2: The Titanic Icefield

Titanic Icefield
By some accounts, there were many icebergs in the fast icefield that could have struck the fatal blow to the Titanic's hull. (Photo: Unknown author [public domain]/Wikimedia Commons)

The night of the disaster, the crew of the Titanic was well aware of ice dangers, in particular a massive icefield to the north. According to one account, it may have been First Officer William Murdoch's decision to avoid this ice field that inadvertently lined the ship up with the deadly iceberg. Images taken from the Carpathia showed the extent of the icefield (as well as a giant iceberg), observed by one individual as "one solid wall of ice, at least 16 feet high, as far as could be seen."

Suspect #3: The Minia Iceberg

Minia iceberg, Titanic sinking
Capt. William de Carteret of the Minia reportedly said that this was the only iceberg near the scene of the collision. (Photo: Unknown author [public domain]/Wikimedia Commons)

The Minia was one of the first ships on the scene following the disaster. The crew found this iceberg floating in the vicinity of wreckage and bodies.

Suspect #4: The Rehorek Iceberg

It took 88 years after the sinking of the Titanic for this photograph, taken by Stephan Rehorek on board the German steamer Bremen, to be made public. (You can see it at the top of this file.) Many believe it to be the actual iceberg that sank the legendary ship. The Breman sailed into the disaster area on April 20, discovering this iceberg, as well as wreckage and bodies. Unlike other suspected icebergs, this one not only has damage on the correct side that is consistent with a collision, but also matches the "Rock of Gibraltar" description by Scarrott. More information on this iceberg can be found at Encyclopedia Titanica.

Suspect #5: The Birma Iceberg

a map showing the location of various ships involved in the Titanic wreck site
This map shows the location of various ships and icebergs at the Titanic wreck site. The triangles note the position of glaciers reported and the yellow points are the other ships. (Photo: W.Rebel [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons)

The Carpathia arrived at the scene of the disaster at 4 a.m. and the Russian vessel Birma arrived at 7 a.m. Both have singled out the iceberg to the left of the Titanic as the one that likely to have done the damage. According to the reports, the glacier's height was about 140 feet and length 200 feet and its depth, underwater, estimated at 980 feet.