Photo by Henry Aldrige & Son Ltd
A rare photo reportedly shows the iceberg that sank the RMS Titanic, supposedly taken only 40 hours before ice scraped its hull on April 14, 1912. The photo—which was sold at auction and was taken by W. Wood who was captain of the SS Etonian—shows an oddly-shaped iceberg with an inscription that reads:
“Iceberg taken by Captain Wood SS Etonian in 41°50N 49°50W
April 12th at 4pm 1913
Titanic struck April 14th and sank in 3 hours”
Strangely, Captain Wood dated his picture 1913 even though the Titanic sank in 1912. According to The Independent, “the photo is dated 1913 but auctioneers say Capt. Wood’s letter corroborates the image.” No further information has been released about the date discrepancy.
Still, there is strong evidence that suggests Captain Wood accurately captured the same iceberg that sank the “unsinkable” Titanic. For one, the coordinates Wood noted on the photo were almost a perfect match for the the iceberg’s original location. Additionally, Wood sent the photo to one Billy Tucker accompanied by a letter, which is also included in the auction lot. In a portion of his letter, Wood wrote:
“I am sending you a sea picture, the Etonian running before a gale and the iceberg that sank the Titanic. We crossed the ice tracks 40hrs before her and in daylight so saw the ice easily and I got a picture.”
According to auctioneer Andrew Aldridge, Captain Wood’s photo is an incredibly close match to sketches made by both a lookout who spotted the iceberg and a crew member who also saw the mass first-hand.
“Their sketches both appear similar to the iceberg in this photo and have the same distinctive odd shape at the top,” says Aldridge. While there appears to be overwhelming evidence that confirms that the photo does indeed show the famous iceberg that sank the Titanic, it’s impossible to know for sure.
This isn’t the first time an alleged photo of the infamous iceberg has been put up for auction. In 2015, a grainy photo taken in 1912 by M. Linoenewald, the chief steward of the SS Prinz Adalbert, reemerged. It’s reported that the steward wrote a note to accompany the photo in which he said:
“On the day after the sinking of the Titanic, the steamer Prinz Adalbert passes the iceberg shown in this photograph. The Titanic disaster was not yet known by us. On one side red paint was plainly visible, which has the appearance of having been made by the scraping of a vessel on the iceberg. SS Prinz Adalbert Hamburg America Line.”
Still, Linoenewald’s photo remains unverified. This also isn’t the first time that someone has tried identifying the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. The Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) published a paper in which they analyzed iceberg risk in the year 1912 and found that although the year was “indeed unusual,” for the number of icebergs—1,038 crossed 48°N—in the Atlantic waters where the ship went down, “this number does not even reach the 90th percentile of the annual number distribution.”
Photo by BettmannGetty Images
There are also several accounts of passing ships with crew and passengers claiming to have seen the iceberg that sent the Titanic to its watery grave. Still, a definitive way to identify the iceberg that struck the ship remains elusive. The ship navigated waters full of icebergs the year it took its maiden—and only—voyage but according to the RMetS paper, “1912 was a significant ice year, but [it was] not extreme.”
Captain Wood’s photo and letter are one lot belonging to a larger catalogue of Titanic memorabilia that was also up for auction. The iceberg photo and Wood’s letter were estimated to sell for somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000.