An academic from Newcastle University has been helping to record the sad state of the wreck of the Titanic.
The ship – which sits under 3,800 metres of water around 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland – is being consumed by metal-eating bacteria.
Expedition scientist and marine researcher Dr Clare Fitzsimmons has been working as part of a crew using a small submarine to survey the wreck. This is the first survey of the Titanic for almost 15 years.
The submersible – 4.6 metres long and 3.7 metres high – has been making photographic sweeps of the ship, enabling the team to produce photoreal 3D models.
This will help determine the Titanic’s current state, meaning more accurate predictions can be made concerning the future of the wreck. A depiction of the wreck will be created using AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) technologies.
Dr Fitzsimmons said, “There are microbes on the shipwreck that are eating away the iron of the wreck itself, creating ‘rusticle’ structures, which is a much weaker form of the metal.”
These rusticles – which resemble stalactites of decaying metal – are so delicate they can crumble at just one touch.
The Titanic historian Parks Stephenson added, “The most shocking area of deterioration was the starboard side of the officers’ quarters, where the captain’s quarters were.”
“The captain’s bath tub is a favourite image among Titanic enthusiasts and that’s now gone. That whole deck hole on that side is collapsing, taking with it the staterooms, and the deterioration is going to continue advancing.”
The submersible pilot, Victor Vescovo, said, “It’s a big wreck; I wasn’t quite prepared for how large it was.”
“It was extraordinary to see it all, and the most amazing moment came when I was going along the side of the Titanic and the bright lights of the submersible reflected off a portal and came right back. It was like the ship was winking at me. It was amazing.”
Though believed to be unsinkable, the Titanic struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 14th April 1912. The Titanic was – at that time – the largest ship to have ever been constructed, as well as the heaviest and most luxurious.
More than 1,500 of the Titanic’s passengers and crew were killed, out of a total of 2,224. The ship sank down to its grave, in pitch black water with a temperature of just one degree Celsius.
The expedition team will publish their results to coincide with a documentary, which is being made by Bafta-and-Emmy-award-winning Atlantic Productions, of London.