Titanic explorers delay mission by a day

A team of scientists that will explore the wreckage of the Titanic has delayed its departure from St. John's by a day.
Scientists are on a mission to provide 3-D maps of the wreckage of the Titanic, which rests almost four kilometres under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. ((Ralph White/Associated Press))
A team of scientists that will explore the wreckage of the Titanic has delayed its departure from St. John's by a day.

The RMS Titanic Inc., which conducts research and recovery expeditions to the Titanic, said on its Facebook page that expedition scientists will leave St. John's at 8 p.m. local time on Monday after they decided Sunday to conduct some final equipment tests on land rather than at sea.

"This slight change should result in more efficient operations once on site," the Facebook update said.

The Titanic sank in 1912 after striking an iceberg more than 590 kilometres south of Newfoundland. More than 1,500 people were killed after the luxury liner sank to the ocean floor, almost four kilometres beneath the surface of the Atlantic.

The expedition to the Titanic will assess the deteriorating condition of the world's most famous shipwreck and create a detailed three-dimensional map that will "virtually raise the Titanic" for the public.

"You have seen the wonderful shots of the bow and the bridge but no one has mapped it in its entirety so we'll do that," David Gallo, a joint expedition co-leader, told CBC News on Sunday. "We'll map the entire debris field and the bow and the stern, both with sonar to get the shape of the objects but also with very special HD 3-D cameras that we've got onboard.

"And that will do two things. We have an archeological-type base map to work with in the future and a virtual Titanic, so we can share that with the public."

Interest in the Titanic has always been high, but peaked with James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster movie Titianic, which included film shot at the wreckage site itself.

The current RMS Titanic mission will use new acoustic technologies to complete advanced 2-D and 3-D maps, with remote operated vehicles carrying equipment that that will traverse the site in the black stillness of the deep ocean.

Researchers are hoping to provide images that no one has ever seen before.

"The equipment we'll be using will be able to plot each large section, as well as many of the smaller artifacts that are visible on the ocean bed, so it will give us almost a complete picture [of] the condition and location of everything associated with Titanic at this moment in time," Alex Klingelhofer, chief conservator of the expedition, told CBC News on Friday.

She said the raw data collected at the site will need to be processed. She said the 3-D mapping will likely be used in products that will be publicly available through DVDs or as part of travelling exhibitions.

Another area of interest involves what are called "rusticles," or icicle-shaped rust particles that are gradually causing the wreck to fall apart. The researchers are hoping to learn more about the rate of deterioration at the Titanic site, and what could be done to stop it.

The expedition crew is using social media to help keep the public abreast of the progress of the 20-day mission, with a website (www.expeditiontitanic.com), a Twitter feed (@RMS_Titanic_Inc) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/rmstitanicinc).

The expedition is a partnership between RMS Titanic, which has exclusive salvage rights to the wreck, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

With files from The Associated Press