Friday, June 2, 2023

‘She has stories to tell’: digital scan of Titanic wreck could reveal its secrets

The Titanic has been depicted in unprecedented detail in the first full-sized digital scan of the wreck.

The unique 3D view of the entire vessel, seen as if the water has been drained away, could reveal fresh clues about how she came to sink on her maiden voyage in 1912. The scans also preserve a “digital twin” of the ship, which is rapidly being destroyed by iron-eating bacteria, salt corrosion and deep ocean currents.

Parks Stephenson, a Titanic analyst, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday that the images could provide new forensic evidence that could prompt a rewrite of how the sinking unfolded.

“I’ve seen enough in my years of studying the Titanic that I am suspicious of the narrative that we’ve become accustomed to over the past century,” Stephenson said.

He questions whether the Titanic hit the iceberg along the starboard side, as widely assumed. “I’m seeing a growing amount of evidence in recent years that suggests Titanic actually grounded, ran over a submerged shelf of the iceberg, which was the first scenario proposed back in April 1912,” he said.

The scan enables the ship to be seen as if the water has been drained away. Photograph: Atlantic Productions/Magellan

“There is still much to learn from the wreck, which is essentially the last surviving eyewitness to the disaster,” he added. “She has stories to tell.”

The scan was carried out in summer 2022 by Magellan Ltd, a deep-sea mapping company, and Atlantic Productions, which is making a documentary about the project.

The Titanic was long assumed to have sunk in one piece, but when the wreck was discovered in 1985 it was found to have broken up before reaching the ocean floor. It lies in two main pieces about 600 metres apart, surrounded by a field of debris.

Part of scan of Titanic wreck
The wreck of the Titanic lies at a depth of nearly 2.5 miles. Photograph: Atlantic Productions/Magellan

The wreck has been explored and imaged on many occasions. However, conventional cameras provide only clips or snapshots of the ship rather than recording the entire object. And time is running out to capture the wreck in detail.

The lack of light and intense pressure at a depth of nearly 2.5 miles (4km) means there is little sea life in the vicinity. But iron-eating microbes have colonised the vessel and are gradually transforming the 50,000 tonnes of iron into rusticles. These eventually dissolve into a fine powder and are carried away on ocean currents.

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