Mount Allison solves Titanic mystery for PBS
The program 'History Detectives' will air on PBS August 7
Experts at Mount Allison University have assisted an American public broadcasting program in determining if a picture frame was made from the stair rail of the Titanic.
The PBS program History Detectives asked the New Brunswick university lab that studies wood age to determine if the rail belonging to a family was in fact from the famed sunken ship.
A news release from the school says the grandfather of the family worked on a boat that rushed to the scene of a sinking ship, and picked up some of the floating wood.
The grandfather's friend, the ship's carpenter, carved a picture frame using wood from the railing of a grand staircase and he gave it to the grandfather as a gift.
One family member said the frame was made from the stair rail of the Titanic, but another member of the family believed it was from the Lusitania.
Dr. Colin Laroque, an expert on the science of tree rings at Mount Allison in Sackville, N.B., said they have the answer on the wood's origins and it will be revealed on the PBS episode on Aug. 7.
"We use dendrochronology, or tree-ring analysis, to give us insight into past climates, past ecosystem dynamics, and even past human activities over hundreds of years," said Laroque, whose team has also dated other objects, including a hockey stick, a violin, and a canoe.
Laroque said the work was a challenge because they had to do their analysis without the actual object and instead worked from scanned images.
"We needed to work out where the oak was from because if we did that we could be pretty certain of which ship it was," he added. "The Lusitania was built using wood from Scotland, while the Titanic was built with wood from Ireland."
Scientists at the university's lab compared the stair rail with other wood from sister ships and other vessels built at the time of the Titanic and Lusitania.
The Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912, during its maiden voyage.
The Lusitania sank on May 7, 1915. The steamship was sunk by a German submarine during the First World War off the coast of Ireland.