How the Titanic tore apart

The bathtub and shower plumbing in Captain Edward Smith's private bathroom - RMS Titanic Inc.


By Alan Boyle - cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com


Experts are still analyzing their newly made 3-D maps of the Titanic shipwreck site, but they can already see that the great ship’s breakup was messier than most folks, including "Titanic" film director James Cameron, may have thought. “It wasn’t quite the way Cameron showed it in his movie,” expedition co-leader Dave Gallo observed.

In a post-expedition interview, Gallo said the fates of the 1,517 people who died in the 1912 tragedy were never far from his mind — especially when a doll’s arm turned up on the HD video from the seafloor.

Gallo and his colleagues spent weeks sailing back and forth between the research vessel Jean Charcot's port in St. John's, Newfoundland, and the North Atlantic spot where the Titanic went down. The expedition was interrupted by two hurricanes, Danielle and Igor, leading to last week's earlier-than-expected end.

Gallo, a researcher at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said he considered this the first purely scientific mission to the Titanic since the original survey of the site in the mid-1980s. Numerous voyages have been conducted in the intervening quarter-century, but "all of those have had science as a sidebar," Gallo told me.

"The primary mission of most of those was either recovery of artifacts, by RMS Titanic, or adventure tourism, with Deep Ocean Adventures," he observed. "Sure, they all came back with exciting images, but was that science? No."

Chris Davino, president of RMS Titanic Inc., said the past month's expedition was aimed at bringing together experts in deep-sea diving and salvaging with the scientific experts from Woods Hole, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and elsewhere. "It resonated more with me when I was out there that what we did will have real implications for deep-sea exploration and wreck-site archaeology," Davino told me. "The tools that these experts brought to bear are game-changing."

The expedition's primary aim was to use robotic vehicles equipped with cameras and sonar devices to create unprecedented maps of the Titanic. The survey covereed a 3-by-5-mile area — with high-resolution, 3-D mapping of the central 1-by-1.5-mile box. "We achieved our primary objective," Davino said.


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