It looks like the surface of the moon. But it's actually the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Piecing together some 130,000 photographs taken by underwater robots, researchers have been able to create the first comprehensive map of the Titanic wreck site that shows not only parts of the ship, but also debris scattered across 15 square miles of the ocean floor, reports Discovery News.
Click here to see some of the photos that form the first comprehensive site map of the Titanic wreck.
It is hoped that the detailed images will provide new information about what happened after the Titanic, a luxury liner on its maiden voyage that had been proclaimed unsinkable, hit an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912. More than 1,500 of the 2,200 passengers and crew were killed. Since it was "unsinkable," there were not enough lifeboats on board.
"If we are going to do our best to manage the Titanic wreck site as a testament to those that sailed on her, we need to understand the disposition and physical state of what's there," Titanic expedition co-leader David Gallo, director of special projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts, told Discovery News. "In addition, we need to put Titanic in context of it is natural setting on the deep Atlantic seafloor."
The photographs making up this comprehensive mapping were taken in the summer of 2010 as part of a project aimed at "virtually raising Titanic and preserving her legacy for all time," reports Discovery news.
The effort was led by RMS Titanic Inc., the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Waitt Institute of La Jolla, California. They were joined by other groups, including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and cable TV's History channel.
Using torpedo-shaped autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), the area was surveyed with high-resolution side-scan sonar and the debris-rich sites were explored by a remote operated vehicle (ROV) fitted with cameras. The 130,000 high-resolution photos were pieced together on a computer to create a detailed photomosaic map of Titanic and the surrounding sea floor.
"The images are staggering. There you are on the bottom of the ocean, transported to the sea floor. It's mindboggling; even veterans who have been to Titanic numerous times are slack-jawed," Gallo told Discovery News.
Because of the way the ship broke apart, the stern and bow face opposite directions and are 1,970 feet apart from each other. "You really begin to understand how violently the ship tore itself apart when it went down and landed all over this enormous footprint on the bottom of the ocean," David Alberg, Sanctuary superintendent for NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, told Discovery News.
--From the Editors at Netscape