OceanGate explorers update their view of a tattered Titanic ⁠ and the life around it

OceanGate explorers update their view of a tattered Titanic ⁠ and the life around it

OceanGate photographed the iconic bow of the Titanic in 2021, left, and in 2022. (Photos from OceanGate Expeditions)

OceanGate photographed the iconic bow of the Titanic in 2021, left, and in 2022. (Photos from OceanGate Expeditions)

After his second annual series of Titanic dives, the CEO and founder of Everett, Washington-based OceanGate says the deterioration of the world’s most famous wreck continues apace.

“We’ll have some better data next year, but it’s definitely in worse shape this year than it was last year,” OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush told GeekWire. “It is undergoing its natural consumption by the ocean.”

Rush said the deterioration is particularly noticeable on the front rail of the sunken ship. Scientists on the Titanic research team should be able to come up with a better solution once they analyze scale measurements that were taken using a laser scanner attached to OceanGate’s Titan submersible.

The annual survey of the Titanic’s remains is one of the main missions of the Titan, which was built to withstand the enormous pressures experienced nearly 4,000 meters (12,600 ft) below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Marine archaeologists say we may be nearing the end of the Titanic saga, which began with its first fatal voyage in 1912 and continued with its rediscovery in 1985. Recent research has documented how the once mighty luxury liner is turning into a rusty ruin. Studying year-to-year changes can shed light on the factors behind the accelerated deterioration.

Another main objective is to categorize the seafloor habitat around the ship. Rush expects to see some significant biological discoveries in this year’s Titanic survey.

“We have researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the University of North Carolina, analyzing the video as we speak, to look at species density and types,” Rush said. “I completely suspect that they will find species that they cannot specifically identify. It’s a challenge to know if they’re new species unless you get the DNA.”

Fortunately, OceanGate Expeditions is partnering with a Canadian company called eDNAtec to collect and analyze water samples on the ocean floor and other sea levels, looking for traces of environmental DNA. The results could help scientists determine which types of species have left behind their genetic signatures – including previously unknown species.

Rush said it is likely to take at least three months to complete the DNA analysis.

OceanGate team members and outside researchers weren’t the only ones making voyages to the Titanic: the company brought in a total of 21 mission specialists who paid up to $250,000 to be a part of the adventure.

Among these mission experts were two astronauts who previously assembled Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket — Evan Dick and Dylan Taylor — as well as planetary scientist Alan Stern, who leads NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, and is programmed to lead its own suborbital spaceflight.

“It really feels unreal that we visit the Titanic, sometimes just 30 centimeters from the ship,” Stern wrote in a blog post.

Other mission experts included Canadian First Nations artists, as well as a self-titled “Titanic nut” who won a contest sponsored by Make-A-Wish Canada.

Rush, who served as the submersible’s pilot, said OceanGate and its Horizon Maritime partners made eight dives over the course of a research season that lasted from mid-June to late July. Teams went back and forth between St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the Titanic’s sinking site, some 370 miles away.

During last year’s expedition, OceanGate ran into a number of technical issues. “This year, our challenges were much more related to weather and operational challenges, new team members, new procedures and the like,” Rush said. “Things are getting quieter. I wouldn’t say easier, but it was more predictable.”

Rush and his companions are already thinking about the 2023 expedition. “We’re looking to do the mission a little earlier — we’ll start in mid-May and end in late June,” he said. “And we’re going to have a different ship, so there’s a lot of work we have to do to qualify this ship and get it ready.”

He’s also looking for targets beyond the Titanic. “We can do something in the Azores,” Rush said. “That would be very interesting. I’ve always wanted to make hydrothermal vents.”

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s Titanic on Twitter:

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