Monday, April 16, 2012

Titanic still sails.

William Lange is the director of the Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and was on the the 1985 expedition that showed us the first images of Titanic. He returned to the site in 2010 to use new equipment and techniques to photograph the ship which lies at a depth of more than 13,000 feet where the water pressure is 10,000 pounds per square inch with near freezing temperatures on the seafloor.

In 1985 Bob Ballard's idea of live video images from the depths to a surface vessel was a revolution. The scientists could make real-time decisions on where to go in the ship but it still only had black and white video. Then humans went down in the submersible Alvin with high quality colour video cameras and a small ROV called Jason Jnr to penetrate into areas to small for Alvin.

These are photomosaics of Titanic from 2012 and 1987 and shows that the bow has remained relatively intact compared with the stern. The top mosaic consists of approximately 1,500 high-resolution still images shot in 2010, revealing structural changes that have occurred to the bow section.
The bottom image was the first complete image of Titanic on the seafloor and is made up of 100 images pieced together from the 53,000 taken by a towed camera sled. It took approximately 700 hours to make.
(copyright 2012RMS Titanic, Inc.)

There have been many Titanic visits made into documentaries but not enough was done on the position of the images in relation to the ship and the debris scattered on the seafloor. The hope was to detect a pattern in the placement of large sections of the ship indicating how it disintegrated as it sank. Bob Ballard proposed that as Titanic sank, the denser objects would fall more quickly and the less dense objects would fall more slowly and get separated over time by ocean currents to form a trail of debris. But later viewings showed that there were multiple debris fields that didn't fit that proposal.

The aft end of Titanic's keel is deeply embedded in thick, clay-like sediment and the port propeller is also visible in this view. (copyright 2012 RMS Titanic, Inc.)
William Lange felt that pieces of the wreckage were still not giving us the complete story. When in 2009, RMS Titanic Inc., the company which holds the salvage rights, was ready to return to Titanic, he went along to survey the site in an archaeological manner. The team developed scientific protocols including using REMUS vehicles which are not connected to the surface by cables and could be pre-programmed to map the seafloor with sonar devices. They also used a salvage ROV to collect high-resolution optical imagery. This enabled the team to see the wreck in 3-D, a time shot of Titanic as it was in 2010 and will be compared to other expeditions in the future as this voyage is compared to 1985.

According to Lange, the ship is decaying but the destruction is just more noticible due to the high resolution images available. The main aim is now to use the debris patterns to try and reverse the sinking and reconstruct what happened and when.

This is the first map of the Titanic wreck site based on images collected by Bob Ballard, Elazar Uchupi and William Lange during two WHOI expeditions in 1985 and l986. It was the most complete map until the new one was completed after this expedition.

If you have any questions then ask because I had to condense this down from four pages.


River said...

Your information is so detailed! Were you an archaeologist or researcher in a past life? I'm close to hopeless when it comes to finding out stuff.
Our Sunday paper had a centre page spread this week on the Titanic, with detailed drawings of the ship's layout, and stories of how she sank with a story from a survivor too. Interesting reading.

R.H. said...

I'm amazed they could find the thing. It's all very fascinating.

JahTeh said...

River, I was on the Titanic. Didn't go down with the ship but went into the dark dark water. I know it sounds crazy but I have always been terrified looking down into dark water, still cannot dive into water and even as a child could not bear to hear anything about Titanic. The stupid thing is that if she had hit the iceberg straight on she wouldn't have sunk, only the forward compartment would have flooded.

Robbert, it was all very shifty as Ballard used searching for the Titanic as a cover for searching for a downed Russian submarine but found Titanic.
I remember the first image that was shown, the little chandelier with a bit of seaweed floating on it. It made more impact with me than watching the moon landing.