Groton — After tracking icebergs for five years, Will Moran wanted to be the one to mark the centennial anniversary of the Titanic disaster by casting wreaths over the resting site.
A marine science technician at the U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol, Moran has deployed to St. John's, Newfoundland, many times in search of icebergs drifting into the trans-Atlantic shipping lanes.
"I'm honored to help commemorate the centennial and remember the lives that were lost that day," Moran said Wednesday at Groton-New London Airport.
Moran will cast the wreaths from a Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City HC-130J Hercules aircraft. A plane from the Canadian Ice Service, which partners with the Ice Patrol to warn mariners of iceberg danger, will drop rose petals on the site.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Juniper also will spread 1.5 million dried rose petals at sea Saturday. Visitors to the Titanic Museum Attractions in Missouri and Tennessee carried the petals through the museums to remember the passengers and crew of the RMS Titanic. The wreaths and rose petals were blessed at a ceremony Tuesday in Boston.
The International Ice Patrol was formed after the Titanic hit an iceberg on April 14, 1912, and sank early the next morning.
"The centennial lets us reflect on our record of success," Cmdr. Lisa Mack, the unit's commanding officer, said. "No ships heeding our warnings have struck an iceberg since Titanic, but it's also a reminder that the risk remains. There are still icebergs and there are still ships, and that reminds us why we do what we do every day."
Mack said the unit drops wreaths over the site every year on the anniversary. The wreaths are dropped during a regularly scheduled deployment. The wreaths and gear were loaded onto the plane at the airport Wednesday.
Members of the Ice Patrol look for icebergs in a 500,000-square-mile area off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and relay the icebergs' locations back to the operations center at Fort Trumbull in New London, where the information can be fed into a computer model that uses ocean current and wind data to predict how the icebergs will drift. The Ice Patrol shares its charts with mariners worldwide.
Moran, who will transfer from the unit in June, said he believes the creation of the Ice Patrol and the safety rules that were put in place for mariners has prevented another tragedy like the Titanic from occurring.
"The main difference between 1912 and today," he said, "is the International Ice Patrol."