The Titanic disappears. The iconic ocean liner, which was sunk by an iceberg, is now slowly succumbing to metal-eating bacteria: holes pervade the wreck, the crow’s nest has already disappeared and the railing of the iconic ship’s bow could collapse at any time.
In the fight against the inevitable, an underwater exploration company expedition to the site of the wreck could begin this week, starting with what is expected to be an annual chronicle of the ship’s decay. With the help of wealthy tourists, experts hope to learn more about the ship, as well as the underwater ecosystem from which shipwrecks emerge.
“The ocean is taking this thing, and we need to document it before it all disappears or becomes obscure,” said Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions, on Friday of a ship that went to the wreck in the North Atlantic.
The 109 year old ocean liner is plagued by deep sea currents and bacteria that consumed Hundreds of pounds of iron a day. Some have predicted that the ship could disappear in a few decades as holes in the hull yawn and parts dissolve.
Since the ship was discovered in 1985, the 30-meter-long front mast has collapsed. The crow’s nest from which a lookout called: “Iceberg, right in front of us!” Disappeared. And the poop deck, where the passengers huddled as the ship sank, folded under itself.
The gym near the grand staircase collapsed. And a 2019 expedition discovered that the captain’s haunting bathtub, visible after the outside wall of the captain’s cabin fell, is gone.
“At some point you would expect the railing at the bow, which is very iconic, to collapse,” said Rush.
The company has outfitted its carbon fiber and titanium submersible with high-resolution cameras and multi-beam sonar equipment, Rush said. Recording the decomposition can help scientists predict the fate of other deep-sea wrecks, including those that sank during the world wars.
OceanGate also plans to document the site’s marine life such as crabs and corals. Hundreds of species have only been spotted on the wreck, Rush said.
Another focus will be the debris field and its artifacts. David Concannon, an OceanGate consultant who has been involved in various Titanic expeditions, said he once followed a trail of “light debris and small personal items such as shoes and luggage” for 2 kilometers.
Archaeologists and marine biologists are involved in the expedition. But OceanGate also brings around 40 people who paid to come along. You will take turns operating sonar equipment and performing other tasks in the 5-person submersible.
They fund the expedition by spending between $ 100,000 and $ 150,000 each.
“Someone paid $ 28 million to fly Blue Origin into space, not even to the moon, â€said Renata Rojas, 53, from Hoboken, New Jersey. “That is cheap in comparison.”
Obsessed with the Titanic since childhood, Rojas said she began studying oceanography in hopes of one day discovering the wreck. But it was found that same year, which led her to embark on a banking career instead.
“I kind of have to see it with my own eyes to know it’s really real,” she said.
Bill Sauder, a Titanic historian who previously conducted research for the company that owns the ship’s salvage rights, said he doubted the expedition “will discover everything on the front page.” But he said it would improve the world’s understanding of the wreck’s layout and debris field. For example, he would like confirmation of where he thinks the ship’s kennels are.
OceanGate will not be taking anything from the site, which makes this expedition far less controversial than another company’s now sunk plans to salvage the Titanic’s radio.
RMS Titanic, the company that owns the rights to recover the wreck, wanted turn off the radio equipment for sending the Titanic’s distress calls. But the suggestion ignited last year a lawsuit with the US government. The expedition was said to be violating federal law and a pact with Britain to leave the wreck undisturbed as it was a burial site.
All but about 700 of the roughly 2,200 passengers and crew members died after the ship hit an iceberg in 1912.
According to the firm, the litigation ended indefinitely delayed his plans because of the complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But it is possible that not everyone will agree to this next mission.
In 2003, Ed Kamuda, then president of the Titanic Historical Society, told The Associated Press that human activities, including tourism and expeditions, must be limited. He said the site should be a simple maritime memorial and be left alone.
“Let nature take back what is hers,” he said. “It is only a matter of time before there is a brown stain and a build-up of pig iron on the ocean floor.”