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Titanic Headstone Transcript

Transcript

MILLER

So Barrie I was just interested in the kind of work that you are doing and why you are looking at some of these gabbros and its relation to the Titanic.

CLARKE

Well this story started about fifteen years ago when James Cameron’s movie came out, and suddenly the. . . the movie about the Titanic of course, and suddenly the city of Halifax realized it had a major tourist attraction on its hands with the 150 people who are buried in Halifax from the Titanic disaster. And so they thought they better spruce up the place and a couple of the stones were damaged. They had been … they  had succumbed to weathering over the last 90 years or so. So somebody, one of the work crew said well okay we’ll just replace the stone, and somebody else said, okay, fine, where did it come from, and that’s the question we’ve been trying to answer for the last fifteen years.

So.. a piece of the broken stone came to me. Where did it come from I was asked. I said I don’t know. I had some ideas, I turned out to be wrong. My first guesses were wrong, and I still don’t know if I am right, but I am beginning to look very carefully at the black granites of southwestern New Brunswick.

MILLER

So you are looking at a specimen here from the New Brunswick Museum collection that was collected around Bocabec or St. George area, and this looks close to the source of the gabbro that…

CLARKE

Yeah it does, this sample here is one of the many of the black granites that come from the St. George-St. Stephen area of New Brunswick, and it’s interesting because this sample was donated to the museum, sometime late in 1912 or early 1913, right after the headstones were produced for Halifax. So it’s rather.. rather interesting timing and when I look at the texture of this rock, and it is one of the things I have to go by, I’d say it’s pretty close to what I see in the Titanic headstones in Halifax.

MILLER

So these things were marketed as black granite but they are not really…

CLARKE

No, if one of my students called this a black granite on a test I would give him zero, it’s in fact a gabbro, and it has quite different minerals than a granite, and it’s much darker in colour than granites are.

MILLER

So this one has a few unique properties to it that you are looking for.

CLARKE

Yeah it does. One of the things we have to match is the age, and we know the age of the Titanic headstones is 422 million years, plus or minus 2 million years, and that is the age of the black granites in southwestern New Brunswick. So I suspect if we took a sample of this and dated it we would also get 422. That’s one of the things we’ll have to do when we have a real candidate that we think is a match. We have to match the minerals too, and the interesting thing about the Titanic headstones is that they have not one, not two, but five different black minerals in them, and that’s most unusual for a gabbro. So if this sample has only four of them, then this isn’t the one. I’ve got to find one with olivine, clinopyroxene, orthopyroxene, hornblende and biotite, and it’s quite a tall order to fill.