Droycon Bioconcepts diving to study the Titanic

By Doyle Fox - Leader Post

Lori Johnston and Sean Frisky won't be looking for the fictional necklace named "The Heart of the Ocean" when they dive down in a midget submersible vehicle to see the legendary British ocean liner Titanic in September.

No, Johnston and Frisky will be representing Regina-based Droycon Bioconcepts and studying the bacteria and other contributing factors to the degradation of the Titanic.

"Most of the wrecks I've studied, including the Titanic, are designated graveyards," said Johnston, a microbiologist by trade. "We are not there as treasure hunters — everything we do is noninvasive."

Johnston has visited shipwrecks all over the world, including the Titanic's sister ship HMHS Britannic as well as the German battleship Bismarck. However, she first made the four-kilometre dive to see the world famous shipwreck.

"On my first dive, we came in contact with the bow and my first thought was 'this is a massive ship and beautiful'," Johnston said. "It wasn't harsh looking, it had a very soft feel."

Johnston, a University of Regina graduate, has made five dives to study the Titanic with renowned local scientist Roy Cullimore. Together, Johnston and Cullimore studied the bacteria that is eating away the iron on the Titanic.

"The degradation rate is basically the recycling process of nature — you can try to manage it, but it would be very difficult," Johnston said. "It's more interesting to see nature take its course."

In 2002, Johnston placed steel platforms built by IPSCO in the degradation "hot-spots" of the Titanic in hopes of discovering the rate at which the ocean liner is degrading.

Frisky, president of Regina's Ground Effects Environmental Services, said he and Johnston will measure, compare and analyze the "rusticles" left on both the Titanic and on the steel platforms.

"Rusticles are up to six metres long and they look like icicles on the side of the ship," said Frisky, who is readying for his first dive to Titanic.

"If there looks like there is enough (rusticles) to give us significant data, we will bring them up," Johnston said.

Johnston is also excited at the prospect of determining how much electricity can be generated from the rusticles and bacteria on the Titanic.

She believes the bacteria can generate over one watt of electricity and can potentially be the key to harnessing a greener source of power.

Aside the from the scientific aspect of the excursion, Johnston still marvels at the human element of the Titanic.

Titanic UK museum

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