Page 14 - National Geographic - Whats Destroying Titanic 2004
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of disciplined mapping effort that oceanog- raphers do best. And so now we were back with Hercules, our newest robotic vehicle, gliding a few meters off Titanic's famous bow. When the luxury liner had smashed into the bottom, her bow had pushed up a great wave of mud, as if she was still under steam trying to complete her maiden voyage to NewYork (Continued from page 100) I'd urged It surprised me, at first, how little had others to treat Titanic's remains with dig- changed on the bow, the best preserved part nity,like that shown the battleship Arizona of Titanic. The stern section, by contrast, is in Pearl Harbor. Instead they'd turned her a twisted pile of rusted wreckage, having into a freak show at the county fair. imploded as it spiraled to the bottom. To make matters worse, some of these vis- But now as Herculespassed over the fore- its were reportedly damaging Titanic.ln deck, I spotted a black blemish on the for- order to see for myself, I teamed up with ward anchor boom that may have been Capt. Craig Mclean, director of ocean caused by the glancing blow of a passing exploration at the National Oceanic and submersible. Just aft of the number one car- Atmospheric Administration, to co-sponsor go hold I saw three separate submersible an expedition. For the past few years NOAA landing sites. I'd landed not far from here had been quietly working to create an inter- myself in 1986 in Alvin, a three-person sub- national treatyto protect Titanic. I believed mersible operated by the Woods Hole Ocean- our expedition could contribute to that ographic Institution, before I became aware effort by surveying the ship's current con- of the possible effects of such contact. The dition. (As it turned out, the U.S. signed a damage to the steel deck was obvious, bright treaty with Great Britain only two weeks yellowish blotches of fractured iron with a after we visited the wreck site.) central black oval that exposed new hull Besides weathering the impact of human plating to bacterial attack. visitors, Titanic has suffered from natural I was curious to see what had happened decay. Communities of iron-eating bacte- to the crow's nest, from which 24-year-old ria are consuming her hull. I'd even read a lookout Frederick Fleet had shouted, "lce- report theorizing that fishing on the Grand berg right ahead!" I suspected the worst. The Banks has so diminished fish stocks that last time I'd seen the crow's nest in 1986, it uneaten plankton is falling on the ship, feed- was dented but still clinging to the foremast. ing the microbes. The best way to assess I'd heard rumors that it was now gone. And such impacts would be to carry out the kind sure enough, when we passed over the mast, which was collapsed on the deck, there was LoNG GOODBYE Helped along by human no sign of the crow's nest, which had prob- interference or not,Titanic will one day ably fallen through a hatch into the hull. disappear, perhaps deteriorating on the Farther aft we found new damage to the schedule (below) laid out by microbiolo- captain's quarters and the chief officer's gist Roy Cullimore, who has studied the quarters. Photographs by the Russian subs ship's decline. He estimates that grovuths Mir I and II in 2003 had revealed deterio- of bac'teria and fungi, nicknamed "rus- ration along the side of the captain's ticles" because they resemble icicles, quarters and the collapse of the bulkhead. are sapping a hundred or more pounds Inside we saw the captain's bathtub, with its of iron from the wreck each day. shiny brass faucets.
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