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Researchers Discover Wreck of Ship That Tried to Warn the Titanic

History might have been very different if the Titanic had heeded a warning from the SS Mesaba.

The SS Mesaba on the water in a black-and-white vintage photo with prominent steam stack.
The SS Mesaba in better days. The ship tried to warn the Titanic of ice in the area.
State Library of Queensland

In 1918, the steam-powered SS Mesaba sank in the Irish Sea after being hit by a torpedo from a German submarine during World War I. The ship might have been forgotten, except that it had ties to the infamous Titanic disaster of 1912. On Tuesday, Bangor University announced that the shipwreck of the Mesaba has been located.

Mesaba was a merchant vessel traveling in the same waters as the Titanic. According to the Encyclopedia Titanica, a repository of Titanic research, the Mesaba sent the large passenger ship a radio message cautioning of heavy pack ice and a great number of large icebergs. The message, however, was never relayed to the Titanic's bridge. The Titanic struck an iceberg and sank later that evening, in a disaster that claimed more than 1,500 lives.

A sonar image shows the SS Mesaba on the bottom of the Irish Sea, broken in half from the torpedo attack in 1918.

Bangor University

The research team found the Mesaba among 273 shipwrecks scattered across 7,500 square miles (19,400 square kilometers) of the sea. The researchers used an advanced seafloor mapping technology called multibeam sonar and combined the results with historical records and maritime archives to identify the merchant ship's final resting place. A dramatic sonar image shows the Mesaba split into two main parts.  

Nautical archaeologist Innes McCartney released Echoes From the Deep, a book about taking inventory of shipwrecks in the Irish Sea, this year. Seabed mapping specialist Michael Roberts led the sonar surveys from the Prince Madog research vessel. The researchers were able to give names to many previously unidentified and misidentified wrecks.

"The Prince Madog's unique sonar capabilities has enabled us to develop a relatively low-cost means of examining the wrecks," McCartney said in the announcement. "We can connect this back to the historical information without costly physical interaction with each site."

The Titanic's fate and location are well known. A different research team recently released the first 8K video of the wreck. The Mesaba had a small role in that devastating drama, even though it wasn't able to save the Titanic.