The expedition to locate and explore the wreck of Titanic was also a test for new deep-sea imaging technology, which was thought of by Robert Ballard. Utilizing Remote Operated Vehicles (R.O.V.s) allows explorers and scientists to search, view, and picture areas of the sea bottom from relative safety, allowing fragile marine resources to be recorded while leaving them undamaged for future generations.
In his book, Discovery of the Titanic, Dr. Ballard says he hopes to someday revisit the Titanic, saying "Only if I do, I will visit the wreck without ever leaving my surface ship and broadcast the pictures live around the world."
Not only is Robert Ballard responsible for bringing the Titanic to life for millions of people, his ideas and imagination and those of others like him, are making the most facinating environment on earth, the seas, increasingly accessible to future generations of explorers.
When Titanic plunged to the bottom of the North Atlantic she took the lives of 1,523 souls with her into the abyss. Her shattered hulk is their memorial now, more than two miles beneath the sea.
When the wreck was discovered in 1985 by Dr. Robert Ballard, facination with the ship and it's history was rejuvinated. This facination has continued to grow with the release of the movie Titanic. Through the eyes of James Cameron, and the growth of
computer FX technology, we are, in a sense, allowed aboard this ship to travel with her passengers, and witness the grandness of the Titanic, which now lies in two major pieces, some 1900 feet apart, with a vast debris field covering the seabed between.
The Debris Field!
Between the two sections of the wreck is a large debris feild, which contains any contents that spilled out of the wreck as it broke up. Everything seems to be in this field. Dishes, hull fragments, thousands of peices of coal, and personal property all of which seem to serve as a reminder of what happened that night.
When the stern was found it seemed that, because of the sterns heavy impact with the bottom, the propellers had been buried beneath the sea bed. The boss arms that supported the wing propellers were specially reinforced, but they were not built to withstand the kind of force generated when the stern came to rest. However it was soon discovered that the starboard wing propeller was bent upward, and now protrudes through the rust covered bottom.
The funnels were all shorn away in the sinking. It is not really known when the funnels separated from the rest of the ship. In the movie Titanic this happened before the ship went under, according to witnesses only the first funnel seperated on the surface. Fragments of the funnels have been identified at various points throughout the wreck site and debris feild. There are some excellent photos of the wreck in Robert Ballards book, Discovery of the Titanic.
Interior of the ship!
A number of expeditions have sent remote vehicles into Titanic's interior, and on one of RMS Titanic Inc.'s expeditions, the video feed from the ROVs was broadcast live. For the most part, Titanic's interior is a jumbled mass, quietly rusting away in darkness, but now and then, recognizable objects emerge from the darkness. Some of the dome shaped light fixtures hang from their wires, like chandeliers. Where wood was painted, the ornate carvings can be discerned on posts. The wrought iron dome, and ornate clock that graced the first class staircase is long gone, perhaps lying in a jumble of debris at the bottom of the staircase opening. Possibly the flow of sewater into the wreck has swept figures of honor and glory aft into the wreck.
When Robert Ballard first found the Titanic he thought about bringing some artifacts to the surface, but decided against this idea because of the pairs shoes that lay in the debris field. At various places throughout the wreck site there are shoes, laced and lying side by side, maiking where victims of the Titanic came to rest that night.
One of the most famous images of the Titanic wreck is the picture of a tin cup that had come to rest, intact, atop one of the ships Boilers.
What is happening to her now?
The Titanic is corroding and very interesting corrosion products are being discovered. The structure, chemistry and mineralogy of the corrosion products are allowing scientists to gain insight into the geochemistry of iron and other metals that were accidentally introduced into this deep sea environment.Since the Titanic was a brand new ship and she had not even completed her first voyage when she sank,this allows for a well-controlled scientific study.
The most obvious corrosion products on the Titanic are rusticles.They resemble stalactites and can reach lengths of tens of centimetres. The rusticles have a smooth red outer surface made up of iron oxyhydroxide. When a rusticle is broken open the core is a bright orange colour. The needle-like crystals that make up the core are called 'goethite' [FeO(OH)].
Rusticles covering Titanic's bow
When a biological activity test was performed it was shown that the rusticles grew in the presence of bacteria. The bacteria are a sulfate-reducing species that grow rapidly under anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions.
There are other unusual forms of corrosion that exist on this magnificent wreck, and these are 'rust flows' and 'rust flakes'. The rust flows are predominantly found on the deck of the Titanic and successive analysis has lead to the fact that they spread at a rate of 10 cm per year. The rust flakes are very similar in composition to the rusticles. They are a mixture of goethite and lepidocrite, both minerals formed in the presence of iron, and suggest bacterial colonization as well.
The study has shown that biological activity in the sea water plays a very significant role in the corrosion of the Titanic. It is now that we know that these bacteria are essential for the formation of rapidly spreading rust flows and rusticles.
One of the things that is now certain is that Titanic will eventually be destroyed by nature. In spite of the lack of oxygen at that depth, iron eating bacteria continue to eat away at Titanic's structure and eventually the wreck will collapse on itself. The estimates seem to range from 75 to 90 years. Despite the difference in time there is now no doubt that all to soon there will be nothing left of Titanic except memories, and Internet sites. Although the wreck's condition is too poor to consider raising, the company RMS Titanic Incorporated has been raising items from the wrecksite for several years, and displaying them in a touring exhibit. Many critics, myself included, charge the company with grave robbing, while others say they are preserving history. The simple fact is that while the real artifacts bring the victims to life in a certain way, their property should be left alone. The Titanic's wreck site is their official tombstone. Through the Internet, and books, we can build a musuem of our own with pictures of the ship before she sank, and after her discovery. More importantly we can also keep the victims alive through the telling of personal stories such as Ida Straus refusing to enter lifeboat #8 without her husband, the steward whom gave his lifebelt to one of the First Class passengers and told her that if she survived to pray for his survival(he died, and it is still not known what his name is), and the gallant actions of the firemen, the electrical engineers, and radio operators Harold Bride(who lived) and Jack Phillips(who died), all of whom stayed at their posts until near the end. I do not think that many people whould allow the graves of the grandparents, or parents, too be dug up for any reason. Another problem with the removal of objects from the site is the re-selling of them to "collectors". I am not pointing the finger at all collectors, just the the ones who are stealing from the wreck. Legitimate collectors get their items in legitimate ways, and therefore are not stealing from the dead. These are the reason's for this site, not the movie(Although I do love it, and still think that it was not long enough), or the ships popularity.