Experts say Titanic wreckage disintegrating rapidly
( 2003-08-14 14:06) (Agencies)
The Titanic, sunk by an iceberg on a calm April night, is being quickly claimed by those icy waters as man and nature cause rapid disintegration some 18 years after the wreck's discovery off the coast of Canada.
A team of researchers, scientists and explorers returned last month from a trip aboard the world's largest research vessel, the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh from Russia, to the site of the Titanic, the world's most famous shipwreck discovered in 1985 in international waters off the Newfoundland coast.
"On board the Keldysh were people who had not been down since 1999 and they saw marked damage. In reviewing pictures from 1986, I see a progressive deterioration in the bow and the infrastructure is collapsing," said diver David Bright.
The Titanic, a massive liner carrying everyone from wealthy and elite clientele to immigrants hoping for a new life, hit an iceberg on April 14, 1912, on its maiden voyage to New York City from Southampton, England, and sank. More than 1,500 people died in a disaster that has fascinated scientists and history buffs and inspired a hit movie.
But researchers say the Titanic's wreckage, nearly 2 1/2 miles under the ocean surface, is falling apart and the rate of decay is accelerating. Alfred McLaren, a scientist who was part of the July expedition, was shocked by its condition.
"I would be very surprised if there was much standing two decades from now. I expected this ... but not so quickly," said McLaren.
Some experts believe that salvage operations and numerous visits by treasure hunters and tourists have hastened the decomposition naturally caused by rust, saltwater and other natural factors.
McLaren contends that over-fishing on the nearby Grand Banks has depleted fish stocks that would normally consume tiny organic matter that is now concentrated in the waters around the Titanic and hastening its breakdown.
Researchers said the ship's mast, boat deck and the officer cabins have all collapsed in the last couple of years.
Edward Kamuda, president of the Titanic Historical Society in Massachusetts, said that the U.S. government is exploring ways of preserving the wreckage along with governments of other North Atlantic countries.
RUSTICLES, MICROBES, WORMS AND MAN
"One part of the Titanic adventure is how it is holding up and aging. We are looking at the destruction of some of the structural integrity due to microbes and the formation of what is known as rusticles," said Bright.
Rusticles are the remanent of bacteria eating through the metal and the offshoot of the digestion process. Bright and others have been studying the increased density and size of the rusticles on the Titanic.
Bright said currents, which naturally vary but also are affected by human visits to the site, and Torado worms are also destroying the Titanic. "There are worms down there eating the teak decking. It looks like the teak, but actually all that there is left is the glue that held the teak together," said Bright.
Bright, a technical consultant on 24 documentaries on famous shipwrecks, went down to the wreck site in a submersible craft to take extensive photographs so the state of the wreckage could be assessed.
"We don't have that much data, but looking at the biological and photometric
information, the Titanic is deteriorating at an accelerated rate. There is an
end point when the Titanic will merge with the sea," he
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