- Rebecca Morrell and Alison Francis
- BBC News – Science and Climate
Discover the world’s most famous shipwreck as you’ve never seen it before.
A deep-sea probe was used in the first full-scale digital imaging of the Titanic, located 3,800 meters in the Atlantic Ocean.
The digital scan provides a unique three-dimensional view of the entire vessel, and allows it to look as if the water has just flown out of it.
Scientists hope it will shed new light on what happened to the ship that sank in 1912.
More than 1,500 passengers were killed when the ship hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City.
“There are still questions, fundamental questions, about the ship that need to be answered,” Titanic researcher Parkes-Stevenson told BBC News.
“One of the first major steps is to move the Titanic story towards evidence-based research – not speculation,” he added.
After the discovery of the wreck in 1985, a detailed study of the Titanic began. But its sheer majesty made it extremely difficult to photograph in the darkness of the deep water, with only stunning glimpses of the crumbling ship emerging – and not all.
The new scan depicts the entire wreck, revealing a full view of the Titanic. The wreck consists of two parts, the bow and stern separated by about 800 meters. Surrounding the wreck is a large field of wrecked shipwrecks.
The survey was conducted in the summer of 2022 by deep-sea mapping company Magellan and Atlantic Productions, which is producing a documentary about the project.
A crew on board a special vessel spent more than 200 hours filming with remote-controlled submersible cameras, scanning the length and breadth of the wreck.
The team took more than 700,000 images from all angles, allowing the team to accurately reconstruct the shipwreck in 3D.
Magellan’s Gerhard Seifert, who led mission planning, said it was the largest underwater scanning project ever undertaken.
He explained, “The depth of the ruins is about 4,000 meters and this represents a challenge, there are currents at the site and nothing is allowed to be touched so as not to damage the wreck.”
“Another challenge is that you have to map every square centimeter – even insignificant areas like the landfill, you have to map the mud, but you need it to complement all these interesting things.”
The scan shows the size of the ship and some great details like the serial number of one of the propellers.
The now rusted bow is instantly recognizable even 100 years after the ship was lost.
The arch is at the top of the deck, where a gap in the deck gives an idea of where a grand staircase used to be.
Bud, however, is a pile of minerals. This part of the ship collapsed under the sea.
The surrounding field is strewn with debris from the ship, including ornate metalwork, statues and unopened champagne bottles.
There are also personal belongings, including dozens of shoes, floating on the sediment.
Parks-Stevenson, who has studied the Titanic for years, said she was stunned when she first saw the survey results.
He added: “The new survey allows you to see the wreck in a way that has never been seen before on any submarine, and you can see the wreck in its entirety and see it in its position. And what now shows you the true state of decay.”
He said examining the survey images could provide new insight into what happened to the Titanic on that fateful night in 1912.
He explained: “We don’t really understand what happened when the iceberg hit. We don’t even know if the ship hit its starboard as shown in all the movies – it could have been lodged in the iceberg.”
He also said that examining the back of the ship could reveal the mechanisms of how it hit the ocean floor.
Garbage doesn’t escape the ocean’s ravages, the microbes that feed on it and parts of it decompose. Historians are well aware that time is running out to fully understand the maritime disaster.
But the new survey provides a more complete picture of the ruins in time, and will allow experts to drill down into all the finer details. There is hope that the Titanic will reveal its secrets.
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