Researchers build comprehensive map of Titanic debris field

Posted by Shane McGlaun

I've always had a fascination with the Titanic and how such a massive ship, believed to be indestructible, came to sink on its maiden voyage.

Next month marks the 100th anniversary of the most famous shipwreck in history and the tragic loss of 1500 lives when the ship went down in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg. Over the decades, there have been a number of expeditions to study the final resting place of the infamous ship.

Those expeditions have resulted in the recovery of some artifacts, including a chunk of the ship's hull and various other small parts and items recovered from the wreck debris field.

However,  a comprehensive map of the entire (3 miles x 5 miles) debris field was never compiled -

until now. 

The expedition was led by the legal custodians of the wreck, RMS Titanic Inc., along with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Waitt Institute. The expedition was also joined by a crew from the History Channel who documented the expedition. The results of the expedition are what the team members believe to be the most comprehensive maps of the entire crash site ever produced.

Indeed, the team deployed two independently self-controlled robots that moved along the ocean bottom day and night surveying the site with side-scan sonar. These automated vehicles moved at slightly more than 3 mph in a grid pattern for optimal coverage.

The ocean patrolling vehicles snapped130,000 high-resolution photos in a smaller section of the debris field measuring 2 miles x 3 miles where the bulk of the debris was concentrated. Those photos were taken and stitched together using computer software to provide a large, detailed photo mosaic of the crash site.

The researchers say that their in-depth investigation has already revealed new data about the crash. For example, patterns on the muddy ocean floor show indicate the stern of the ship was spinning like a helicopter blade as it sunk through the ocean depths.

The full findings of the expedition will be revealed in a two-hour History Channel documentary slated to air on April 15; 100 years to the day since the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage.