US aims to 'raise Titanic'
AN ambitious deep-sea expedition to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean next month aims to virtually raise the Titanic by providing the first detailed three-dimensional map of the wreck of the famous liner that sank almost a century ago.
During a 20-day mission likened to an archeological dig, scientists will probe a three-square-mile area of the seabed using high-definition cameras and other modern imaging equipment fitted to a fleet of submersible robots.
The goal, the explorers say, is to build an interactive "video map" of the wreck that the public will eventually be able to visit online or study through video games.
"We are raising the Titanic in a virtual sense. The pay-off is to let people explore and experience the Titanic on their own," said David Gallo, an expedition leader and director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts.
"It will open a whole new era in its exploration and help preserve the legacy of the ship by enhancing the story of the Titanic itself.
"It's also to gain information of archeological importance from maybe hundreds of thousands of artifacts on the seabed. Every one is a bit of evidence of how the ship sank."
The Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives, on the night of April 14, 1912 during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. The wreck was discovered in 1985 by a French-American expedition and has been the subject of seven "research and recovery" missions since.
If successful, next month's project will also indicate how quickly the Titanic is disintegrating.
Experts already know that some sections have crumbled. They fear that more serious erosion and decay has occurred since the last expedition almost two and a half miles below the surface in 2004.
"W don't know what we'll find," Mr Gallo said.
"Until now there's never been a truly rigorous attempt to understand how badly the Titanic is deteriorating."
RMS Titanic Inc, the company that owns the salvage rights to the wreck, has assembled a "dream team" of maritime archaeologists, oceanographers and scientists that will set off from St John's, Newfoundland, on 18 August.
A crew of 30 will travel 370 nautical miles south-east to the wreck site, among them veteran Titanic diver P H Nargeolet.
The expedition co-leader, who is the company's director of underwater research, has made more than 30 dives and supervised the recovery of more than 5,500 artefacts during five earlier missions.
Scientists from America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Institute of Nautical Archaeology will also be taking part.
"The significance and scope of this mission, the team we've assembled to carry it out, and the breakthrough technologies being deployed will give people the opportunity to experience Titanic like never before," said Chris Davino, president of RMS Titanic.
The company has displayed many of the artefacts recovered from the Titanic in exhibitions worldwide to pay for its research, although is awaiting a ruling from a judge in Virginia over ownership of the collection, estimated at $110 million.
The legend of the Titanic has captured the imagination of generations. Life aboard the ship, and a harrowing account of its last night afloat, were captured in director James Cameron's 1997 Oscar-winning movie Titanic.
"There's something for everybody in the Titanic story," Mr Gallo said.
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