Titanic’s last resting place (repost)

THE sinking of the Titanic was one of the 20th century’s great dramas, a mystery that has confounded scientists and historians for decades.

New photos of the ship that sank 100 years ago on April 15, on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, will be published in the April edition ofNational Geographic Magazine – or online athttp://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/04/titanic/sides-text – for the first time giving a sense of what the wreck looks like today.

The photographs, shot by independent research group Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, provide a greater understanding of what happened on that fateful day.

The photos are the by-product of a multi-million dollar, two-month expedition that used a number of different approaches to get never-before-seen views of the wrecked ship.

For much of August and September 2010, explorers used robotic vehicles to sweep the 5km-by-8km site, scanning images that were later combined to produce the first shot below.

Side-scan and multibeam sonar was used to store the minute details of the ship and to evaluate what has changed since previous exploratory expeditions.

During these sweeps, the robots stored “ribbons” of data, with the products of the repeated attempts then collected together and observed as a whole unit.

The process, which is referred to as “mowing the lawn”, worked over the entire area of the ship and the surrounding seabed.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration archaeologist James Delgado told National Geographic the technique was “a game-changer”.

“In the past, trying to understand Titanic was like trying to understand Manhattan at midnight in a rainstormwith a flashlight,” he told the magazine.

“Now we have a site that can be understood and measured, with definite things to tell us. In years to come this historic map may give voice to those people who were silenced, seemingly forever, when the cold water closed over them.”

The side views of the two main parts of the ship speak volumes about the speed at which they crashed into the ocean floor, 3.2km down.

It had taken more than 2 1/2 hours for the ship to break up, allowing 711 passengers to escape with their lives. More than 1500 died. The last survivor died in 2009.

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