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Breakdown: Titanic - Why the iconic ocean liner is disappearing

Published: Aug. 8, 2021 at 12:16 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The once grand Titanic has been sitting more than 2 miles below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean since 1912 after it hit an iceberg.

However, because of how deep the wreckage laid, it stayed well preserved until it was finally found in 1985.

While it has been more than 30 years since the wreck was discovered, scientists now think the remains of the ship don’t have much time left.

The Titanic is disappearing. The iconic ocean liner is now slowly succumbing to metal-eating bacteria: holes continue to spread through the wreckage, and the railing of the ship’s iconic bow could collapse at any time.

Scientists named the new bacteria ‘Halomonas titanicae.’

While the deterioration has slowed, in 2010 proteobacteria were found on rusticles that had been recovered from the wreckage.

Recent estimates predict that by the year 2030 the ship may be completely eroded.

Since the ship’s 1985 discovery, the 100-foot forward mast has collapsed. The crow’s nest from which a lookout shouted, “Iceberg, right ahead!” disappeared. And the poop deck, where passengers crowded as the ship sank, folded under itself.

The gymnasium near the grand staircase has fallen in. And a 2019 expedition discovered that the captain’s haunting bathtub, which became visible after the outer wall of the captain’s cabin fell away, is gone.

The 109-year-old ocean liner is being battered by deep-sea currents and bacteria that consumes hundreds of pounds of iron a day. Some have predicted the ship could vanish in a matter of decades as holes yawn in the hull and sections disintegrate, all because of “hungry” bacteria in the ocean.

Racing against the inevitable, an undersea exploration company’s expedition to the site of the wreckage is monitoring the ship’s deterioration. With the help of wealthy tourists, experts hope to learn more about the vessel as well as the underwater ecosystem that shipwrecks spawn.

“The ocean is taking this thing, and we need to document it before it all disappears or becomes unrecognizable,” said Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions.

OceanGate also plans to document the site’s sea life, such as crabs and corals. Hundreds of species have only been seen at the wreck.

Another focus will be the debris field and its artifacts. David Concannon, an OceanGate adviser who’s been involved in various Titanic expeditions, said he once followed a trail “of light debris and small personal effects like shoes and luggage” for 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).

The expedition includes archaeologists and marine biologists. But OceanGate is also bringing roughly 40 people who paid to come along. They’ll take turns operating sonar equipment and performing other tasks in the five-person submersible.

They’re funding the expedition by spending anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 apiece.

OceanGate will not take anything from the site, making this expedition far less controversial than previous ones.

You can follow their journey here.

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