The irony wasn’t lost on Lt.-Cmdr. Jacob Cass.
He and other members of the U.S. Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol were to lay wreaths over the Titanic’s resting place Saturday.
Instead, before they left St. John’s to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, Cass and his colleagues were diverted to a vessel in distress hundreds of miles southeast of St. John’s.
Their plane arrived on the scene and some nearby fishing vessels were identified. Those ships “alleviated the distress” and the three people aboard the troubled boat were safe and sound.
“Honestly, I think it makes a better story,” said Cass, ice information branch chief. “The foundation of what happened yesterday lies in the foundation of what happened to the Titanic.”
The big ship’s sinking in 1912 led to a call for a North Atlantic iceberg watch. A year later, the International Ice Patrol was set up in response.
The Titanic disaster also led to the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) convention, which aimed to improve ship safety.
Both the patrol and SOLAS standards played a role in Saturday’s successful rescue.
“That co-ordinated effort is all part of what the Titanic brought about,” Cass said.
The patrol is part of the North American Ice Service, which also includes the Canadian Ice Service and the National Ice Center in Washington, DC. Its focus is tracking icebergs and relaying the information for the benefit of mariners.
During iceberg season — generally February to the end of July — the patrol charts icebergs and enters the data into computers that project a berg’s path.
The information is updated and released daily in the form of text bulletins and charts.
To keep models current, the patrol flies over the area off Newfoundland every couple of weeks during the season. It bases itself in St. John’s when it does.
On Sunday, The Telegram tagged along on an iceberg recognizance flight.
The C-130J Hercules left early afternoon, and flying at about 4,500 feet, travelled out over the Atlantic.
The patrol then commenced a standard search pattern — kind of like a zigzag — that would take it north.
Two ice observers sat at the rear of the plane watching for icebergs and keying data into computers.
The patrol made its way back to the island and over Cape Race.
Their flight continued east and back out to sea, before turning back towards land and north along the Southern Shore.
A few icebergs were visible near communities there, including a biggie between Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour.
Just off the latter town, the Hercules continued its pattern, heading east and out to sea again.
The next really noticeable bergs were off Cape Spear and St. John’s. Among them were two large, flat, triangular, ice islands.
After about 4 1/2 hours, and 1,071 miles, the patrol returned to St. John’s, with more information that should ultimately be valuable to mariners.
“No folks who have followed our warnings have ever hit an iceberg,” Cass notes.
And 100 years later, that record can be considered a positive that came out of the Titanic tragedy.
While the patrol didn’t take part in a wreath-laying or any of Saturday’s ceremonies, two members of the U.S. Coast Guard did travel to the Titanic site on a Canadian Ice Service flight.
Petty officer Thomas McKenzie was one of them.
As part of an event that saw a U.S. Coast Guard ship scattering 1.5 million dried rose petals over the site, he laid a small wreath, about 10 inches in diametre, through a drop shute on the plane.
“It was a very touching ceremony,” he said.