Nfld. & Labrador

Titanic explorers prepare 3D map project

A research mission is set to leave St. John's, with scientists planning to create three-dimensional maps of the most famous shipwreck in the world.
Scientists are on a mission to provide 3D maps of the wreckage of the Titanic, which rests almost four kilometres under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. ((Ralph White/Associated Press))

An ambitious research mission is set to leave St. John's this weekend with a team of scientists planning to create three-dimensional maps of the world's most famous shipwreck.

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.

Alex Klingelhofer, chief conservator of the expedition, said the mission is expected to provide new and important information on the wreckage site, which was not discovered until 1985.

"It made sense to really take the time to go out and really record the site. No one's done it in its entirety before," she said.

"We don't really know the entire perimeter of the wreck site and, from an archeological standpoint that's very important, so we can [get] a full sense of the site itself," Klingelhofer told CBC News on Friday.

The mission is organized by RMS Titanic Inc., which has led previous expeditions and owns artifacts retrieved from the wreck.

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

This mission will use new acoustic technologies to complete advanced 2D and 3D 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," Klingelhofer said.

She said the raw data collected at the site will need to be processed. She said the 3D 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).

Klingelhofer noted that 25 years after the wreck was discovered, public interest in the Titanic story remains high.

"It's a momentous story that has touched everyone's hearts," she said.