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Since its tragic sinking in 1912, the wreck of the RMS Titanic and its artifacts have rested at 3800 meters on the ocean floor, a harsh environment of corrosive saltwater, extreme pressure, and iron-eating bacteria consuming its hull. These factors have resulted in significant deterioration of parts of the wreck structure.
Our multi-year commitment to studying the wreck on our annual Titanic Expedition will give the scientific and archaeological communities new insight into the wreck’s deterioration and its deep-ocean environment.
Marine Archaeology and the Rate of Titanic’s Decay
Because different metal alloys were used to construct different parts of the ship’s structure, the rate of deterioration varies. Scientists discovered a unique iron-eating bacteria, Halomonas titanicae, that consumes the iron from the wreck and leaves behind colorful “rusticles.” Unlike other shipwrecks, the Titanic is covered in a multitude of colors of rusticles in certain areas.
The bronze telemotor is still intact and free of rusticles. The bridge house that once enclosed the telemotor and the ship’s wheel has completely disappeared. The structure of the officers quarters ranges from total to partial collapse. It’s fascinating to observe the impact this bacteria has on the wreck. These observations will help the scientific community better understand the deep ocean ecosystem.
Deep Ocean Marine Biology
As the wreck decays, it also serves as an artificial reef in the middle of the abyssal plain of the North Atlantic. The expedition science team will use data collected by prior expeditions, imagery collected from our 2021-2023 Titanic Expeditions, and environmental DNA analysis to develop a more complete picture of the ecology of the site and other natural sites in the same area.
This is important to understanding how and why some communities of organisms develop in geographic isolation while others range broadly across the ocean floor.
We look forward to sharing initial results in 2023.
This important work would not be possible without both our Mission Specialists or OceanGate Foundation. Mission Specialists are people who join us by paying the mission support fee, which helps to underwrite the cost of the Titanic Expedition. Mission Specialists perform a variety of roles like diving the wreck site, gathering data, assisting with surface operations, talking with experts and much more. You can learn more about joining the Titanic Expedition as a Mission Specialist on our Titanic Expedition page.
OceanGate Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) organization that advances understanding of the ocean by providing grants in support of scientific and archaeological marine research, with an emphasis on innovative technologies such as human-occupied submersibles; and by supporting efforts to engage and inspire explorers, researchers, civic leaders and others in the public who share an interest in understanding the ocean. The foundation is the primary philanthropic partner of OceanGate Expeditions.
All OceanGate Foundation underwater exploration is conducted in accordance with the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.
During the summer of 2021, a multi-disciplinary expedition team conducted the first phase of a multi-year series of crewed submersible dives to explore and document the condition of RMS Titanic and portions of the debris field.
This inaugural phase and series of dives included experts in marine biology, nautical archaeology, marine ecology, and Titanic history. The team succeeded in capturing thousands of images of the bow section, stern section, and portions of the massive debris field. This data is a great resource for assessing changes in the condition of the site and continues to provide a solid foundation for planning future dives and surveys.
Following the success of the 2021 Titanic Expedition, the expeditionary team returned to the site in the summer of 2022 to continue exploring and documenting the condition of the historic shipwreck and debris field.
Our sponsored science team utilized advanced and time-tested techniques to gather data for future analysis. An array of 4K and 8K cameras, 2D sonar scanners, direct observation and grid mapping are just some of the techniques and equipment that the team utilized during each of the dives that lasted up to 10 hours.
The team also conducted the first-ever Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of the site to help determine the presence of species around the wreck by partnering with eDNAtec.
The science and expedition teams are preparing equipment, research plans, and resources to return to Titanic in May and June of 2023. The multi-disciplinary team will continue their survey efforts that began in Phase 1 and Phase 2.
Learn more about our 2023 Titanic Expedition and how you can join on our Titanic Expedition page.
Steve Ross is a Research Professor at the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has served as chief scientist on numerous cruises, including those using submersibles. His current work involves community assessment of unique deep-water habitats. He holds a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.
Dr. Bridget Buxton is an underwater archaeologist and historian based at the University of Rhode Island, and an archaeological advisor to OceanGate Foundation. She has worked on and co-directed archaeological expeditions all over the world, including the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Black Sea, and the South Pacific, discovering dozens of historic shipwrecks.
Dr. Anna Gebruk is a marine ecologist with expertise in benthic ecosystems, invasive species, microplastic pollution, and biodiversity conservation. Anna is a Scientific Project Manager at the Changing Oceans Group, University of Edinburgh, UK.
Dr. Hajibabaei is an internationally recognized leader in molecular biodiversity and genomics technologies with over 140 peer-reviewed publications. He is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics and Department of Integrative Biology of the University of Guelph, specializing in the development and application of cutting-edge technologies for rapid and accurate analysis of biological diversity from genes to ecosystems. He is the founder and chief scientific officer of eDNAtec.
Dr. Henry is a marine ecologist interested in sustainable marine development in an era of climate change and challenges posed by other drivers. Her core work focuses on work the principles of sustainable development in the deep and open ocean, drivers of ecosystem change over space and time, and improving dialogues across the industry-policy-science interface.
Dr. Mather is perhaps best known for his studies of shipwrecks around the world, including Revolutionary War ships in Narragansett Bay, the USS Monitor off the coast of Virginia, the shipwrecks of Bermuda and a fleet of German World War I ships in the Atlantic Canyons off Virginia. But his growing reputation is also in the emerging discipline of applied history, in which contemporary issues are addressed via a thorough understanding of historic and cultural landscapes.
Murray Roberts is full professor at the University of Edinburgh. He leads the Changing Oceans research group and co-ordinates the European ATLAS 2016-20 and iAtlantic 2019-23 projects. He is Professor of Applied Marine Biology & Ecology in the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh and co-ordinator of the European ATLAS and iAtlantic projects.
Chris is a Coastal Archaeologist and Geographic Information Systems Specialist at the University of Rhode Island’s Applied History Laboratory and a Principal Investigator (Marine Archaeology) at Gray & Pape Heritage Management where he focuses primarily on offshore wind projects in the Northeast.
Morgan is a doctoral candidate in Global and Imperial History at the University of Oxford. She has worked with the OceanGate’s Titanic Expedition team since January 2018, preparing historical background material for the expedition.
As Centre for Environmental Genomics Applications’s (CEGA) lead ecologist, Beverly leads the planning, logistics, and execution of eDNA field sampling, as well as overseeing the ecological analysis and interpretation of environmental genomics data.