Looking a bit like a stranded whale on the ocean floor, the Titanic has been in perpetual disrepair since moving there on April 15, 1912. This week, an exploration company may launch an expedition to study the current state of the wreckage, the first of what would likely become an annual trip to the site.
The company, OceanGate Expeditions, made waves last year when it announced that paying customers could tour the wreck at over US $ 100,000 ($ 128,260) each, as previously reported by Gizmodo. There will be three paying customers on each trip aboard OceanGate’s ship, a carbon fiber and titanium submersible called Titan.
There are many legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding wrecks, which may contain valuables, but are also burial sites. At 3,810 meters below the surface, the Titanic is no different from many of these ships, except for her immense scale and fame. This fame has made it a regular topic of salvage and conservation discussions, dating back to before the discovery of the steamboat wreck in 1985. Some believe the objects should be salvaged, although such an operation is complex. and expensive. Others argue that the ship is better protected as a mass grave for the more than 1,500 people who died in its sinking. The OceanGate team plans to chronicle the deterioration of the wreck.
“The ocean is taking this thing, and we have to document it before it all goes away or becomes unrecognizable,” Stockton Rush, Chairman of OceanGate, told the PA on board a ship heading for the site of the wreck of the North Atlantic. Besides the deep-sea dwellers – mostly bacteria and archaea – which make a meal of the steel and other materials that made up the ship, strong and changing ocean currents have long prevented the ship from being otherwise sheltered in the sea. Atlantic seabed mud. For 109 years, the wreck has withstood such hazards, but time does its work. “At some point you would expect the very iconic bow railing to have collapsed,” Rush said.
Some iconic parts of the supposedly unsinkable ship are long gone, such as the grand staircase, which provided a convenient entry point for ROV submarines. But others, like the 30-meter forward mast and crow’s nest, have collapsed since the wreckage was discovered. The poop deck has fallen, and even the eerie sight of Captain EJ Smith’s tub is now lost, as a 2019 starboard collapse swept away the officers’ quarters.
Titan’s instruments include high-definition cameras and multibeam sonar equipment, Rush said, which will give the company a better understanding of the ship’s debris field, ecology and the progress of its decomposition. Titan’s paying crew members – tickets range from $ 100,000 ($ 128,260) to $ 150,000 ($ 192,390) per person, according to the AP – will also operate sonar equipment and perform other research tasks. Marine biologists and archaeologists are also involved in the OceanGate expedition and will likely contribute to the scientific goals of the mission.
The Titanic has long fascinated us with a story of human tragedy, pride and the limits of our technologies in the face of nature. Over 5,000 artifacts have been removed from the wreckage and some have been controversially sold. In 2016, the Titanic’s largest artifact owner went bankrupt and various groups bid for ownership of the objects, including a group involving James Cameron. An investment group including private equity firm Apollo ended up recovering the artifacts for $ 19.5 million ($ 25).
Hopes of recovering more of the wreckage were hit hard last year, when a salvage company seeking to recover the ship’s telegraph machine was pushed back by U.S. government lawyers, who said the work would violate federal law and a pact with Britain, which the ship sailed.