The Titanic has long been the subject of controversy. From the myriad of mistakes and circumstances that tragically came together April 14, 1912 to the inadequate loading of lifeboats in the very early morning hours of April 15, 1912. From the different hearings and results into the disaster to speculation as to how and why the ‘unsinkable’ ship sank. And there has been more since the wreck was found in 1985 by Robert Ballard and his team.
The debate as to whether or not Titanic should have remained at peace undisturbed as a graveyard for more than 1,500 people or explored and investigated like tombs from ancient Egypt. It’s a curious and complicated question as to when it’s OK to disturb a resting place, just how much time must pass. But it seems since no bodies have ever been found and all back to dust I imagine by now, the controversy has been focused more on disturbing the ship itself. The retrieval of items has perhaps sped up the natural decay of Titanic. Multiple dives have sure brought back some incredible footage. Speaking selfishly I thank Robert Ballard and James Cameron and all who respectively have visited the ship and allowed the rest of us to see it.
What spurred this post is the apparent end to one controversy, or at least a time out. For the first time, both scientific and salvage approaches are coming together. It has long been known that the ship is disappearing. Just how fast and when it will be gone have also been up for debate.
Research specialist Bill Lange of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts has said, “Everyone has their own opinion” as to how long Titanic will remain more or less intact. “Some people think the bow will collapse in a year or two,” Lange said. “But others say it’s going to be there for hundreds of years.”
The National Geographic reports that, “The 20-day Expedition Titanic will use remotely operated submersibles to complete an unprecedented archaeological analysis of the two-by three-mile (three- by five-kilometer) debris field, including Titanic’s two halves…Thousands of high-resolution photos and video will be combined with acoustic and sonar mapping data to form a 3-D replica of the site, allowing scientists and armchair explorers to probe it in detail. Some photos will reveal never before seen parts of Titanic…Other images, when compared to evidence from earlier years, will help experts gauge the rate of the wreck’s deterioration.”
As an example of the deterioration, they also report that, “Between 1987 and 1993, Nargeolet observed the gymnasium roof corroding and collapsing as well as the upper promenade deck deteriorating. On an early ’90s dive he saw that the crow’s nest—previously seen still attached to the forward mast—had disappeared altogether, apparently damaged to the point where it snapped off and fell to an as yet unidentified location.”
“In addition to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, several other top scientific organizations are managing the data collection. But RMS Titanic, Inc.—which holds exclusive salvage rights to the wreck—is funding the endeavor.”
This time around, project co-leader and director of special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution David Gallo has said, “We’re going to be very careful not to touch the ship…It’s like any operation or exploratory surgery: There is always some risk, but we’ve done everything we can to ensure that we won’t in any way alter the site itself…The only treasures we’re going to be looking for are treasures of the mind…And we’re not picking anything up but data.”
May the controversy be laid to rest alongside Titanic. But there still remains the possibility that what they find this time could lead to renewed controversy Gallo concedes. “If we find out that the hull is going to collapse completely in the near term, what do we then think about the artifacts that are in that hull? Do we let it crumble naturally? Or do we try to somehow preserve the legacy by taking some of those pieces from the seafloor?” Some issues seem practically unsinkable it appears.
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