100 years ago the "Titanic" shipwreck gave Sam Eyde a bright idea

Like so many others, Hydro's first President Sam Eyde wanted to be on the maiden voyage of the passenger ship "Titanic" in April 1912. Eyde had a ticket, but he was delayed in Paris. Only a few days after the sinking of the "Titanic", Eyde presented a concrete plan for monitoring dangerous icebergs in the North Atlantic.

April 10, 2012

With its 46,300 gross registered tons, length of 269 meters and width of 28 meters, RMS "Titanic" was the largest passenger ship of its day. It was built by the world's largest shipyard in Belfast, Ireland and set out on 10 April 1912 from Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York with 2,224 people on board. In the evening four days later the ship collided at a speed of 22 knots with an iceberg off Newfoundland, now a province of Canada.

The ship had a double hull and 16 watertight bulkheads and was considered to be unsinkable, but suffered such extensive damage that it sank less than three hours after striking the iceberg. A total of 1,514 lives were lost.

At that time, Sam Eyde, after three days' delay in Paris had come on board the passenger ship "Mauretania", also on its way to New York. Out in the Atlantic the "Mauretania" received the news by telegram that the "Titanic" had gone down.

Icebergs took both ships and human life

The tragic sinking of the "Titanic" was one of several shipping disasters in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Just between 1880 and 1900 there were 14 known shipwrecks, several hundred people died among the crew and passengers, and more than 40 ships sustained serious damage.

Many of the passengers on board the "Mauretania" were stunned by the news of the "Titanic". For Sam Eyde however, the tragedy acted as a strong incentive to act. He set about collecting available information on iceberg and meteorological conditions and then began to formulate a plan for a patrol and notification service.

By the time he arrived in New York, he had the plan ready. It was immediately submitted to the Commission of Inquiry for the "Titanic" disaster. The idea was warmly received and recommended. The proposal was also cited in The Wall Street Journal already on 19 April 1912, proving that Eyde must have acted quickly and effectively with his iceberg monitoring plans after disembarking from the "Mauretania". The result the same year was the "International Ice Patrol" that put two ships into service patrolling in the Atlantic.

Cooperation between maritime nations

At the end of 1913, representatives of the maritime nation members of the "Convention for Safety and Life at Sea" met in London. They decided to continue patrolling the North Atlantic and to share the costs between all the countries involved in transatlantic shipping. The United States eventually took over the patrols and the U.S. Coast Guard provided the crews, equipment and ships.

In 1932, 20 years after the sinking of the "Titanic", the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten published a three page article by Olav Mosby, MSc, a leader in the ice patrol. He stated that there had not been a single iceberg accident on shipping routes between the U.S. and Europe after the International Ice Patrol was created. At that time there were between 1,500 and 2,000 sailings each way across the Atlantic and the value of the transported goods was about $10 billion. Around one million people a year sailed near the dangerous icebergs in the North Atlantic.

"Typical example"

In the newspaper article, Mosby underscored that it was already about to be forgotten that it was the Norwegian Sam Eyde who proposed the establishment of an international patrol service in the North Atlantic. He said the iceberg patrol was mostly based on the plans laid by Eyde 20 years earlier.

"I have addressed this in such depth because it is such an odd and typical example of our great industrialist's inventiveness and spontaneous creative ability," stated the article.

Sam Eyde's archive in the National Library in Oslo contains Aftenposten's article from 1932 and the notes he wrote when he was still on board the "Mauretania" in the days following the sinking of the "Titanic".


Updated: September 12, 2016