Up she comes ... virtually speaking

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Mission will virtually ‘raise’ Titanic, gauge deterioration

A team of researchers is preparing to launch an expedition to the wreck of the Titanic next month, to examine the condition of the ship that went down on its maiden voyage 98 years ago, killing more than 1,500 people.

“This is certainly a mission steeped in science and exploration,” said Chris Davino, president of RMS Titanic Inc., the U.S. company that holds exclusive rights to the Titanic’s artifacts. “But we also will bring the public to the wreck. Or, as we’re saying, virtually raise the Titanic, through 3-D maps and real-time video of the mission.”

When the Titanic sailed from Southampton on April 10, 1912, it was the largest passenger steamship in the world and was carrying 2,223 passengers and crew. Four days later, the great ship rammed an iceberg in the middle of the North Atlantic and disappeared under icy waters early the next morning, taking with it some of the most distinguished and wealthy people of the day.

The wreckage, located about four kilometres under water, was first found during a French-American expedition led by Jean-Louis Michel and Robert Ballard in September 1985. Their team discovered the ship had split into two, the stern resting about 600 metres away from the bow. Both are surrounded by a debris field spanning approximately 2.6 square kilometres and consisting of ocean-ravaged furniture, dinnerware, toiletries and other refuse.

The latest trip to the Titanic is running under a partnership between RMS Titanic, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and California-based research organization Waitt Institute.

The expedition is set to launch from St. John’s, N.L. on Aug. 18 and is slated to take at least 20 days.

Heralding the mission as “the most technologically advanced scientific expedition ever,” Davino said the public will have access to videos and photos, and will be able to interact with some crew members on www.expeditiontitanic.com, which launches Aug. 3.

“This is certainly a mission steeped in science and exploration,” said Chris Davino, president of RMS Titanic Inc.

Since 1985, most journeys to the Titanic have focused on collecting artifacts, Davino, a Titanic buff, said.

“That is not a goal of this mission,” he said. “We’re setting out to map the entire wreck site. To go beyond the bow and stern.”

Davino estimated that 20 to 30 per cent of that site has not been studied.

 

Condition unknown

“No one knows exactly the condition of the ship. Is there only a handful of years or will there be decades before the ship collapses completely?” he asked.

“There are thousands of theories, and we want to scientifically test them.”

The data collected from this expedition will help track the rate of deterioration of materials on the Titanic - helping to understand how much longer the vessel will last under water — and will also be helpful in assessing the states of other shipwrecks, Davino said.

Nearly a century after the Titanic sank, its stories — the majesty, wealth, characters on board and the alleged curse — can still make headlines.

“The ship was unparalleled. She was the embodiment of her time,” Davino said. “Also, the hubris of her builders to build this ‘unsinkable’ ship that literally lasted days. All that, taken together with the tragedy, creates a story that continues to hold the public imagination.”

Organizations: RMS Titanic Inc., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Geographic location: U.S., Southampton, North Atlantic Massachusetts

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