In the early hours of 15 April 1912, RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg on her maiden voyage. She was the largest ship afloat at the time and was carrying an estimated 2,224 people on board. Only around 710 people survived the disaster.
The wreck of RMS Titanic was discovered in 1985. Since then numerous expeditions have been mounted to photograph the exceptional site, which is located 350 nautical miles from the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, some 12,000 feet below sea level.
Here are 10 eerie underwater photographs of the Titanic wreck.
Titanic is probably the most famous shipwreck of all time. It was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world when it launched on 31 May 1911. Built in Belfast, Northern Ireland by Harland and Wolff, it was intended for transatlantic passage between Southampton, England and New York City in the United States.
At 11.39 on 14 April, four days after departing Southampton, lookouts spotted an iceberg dead ahead of the ship. The crew desperately tried to avoid the collision, but the iceberg struck the vessel on its starboard side, leaving a 200-foot gash in the ship into which water began to seep.
By midnight, the order had been given to prepare the lifeboats. During the following desperate hours, distress signals were sent by radio, rockets and lamps. The ship broke in two, and by 2.20 am the still buoyant stern had sunk.
The wreck of the Titanic was discovered in 1985. This photograph of the wrecked Titanic‘s bow was taken in June 2004 by the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules.
Microbes at work nearly 4 kilometres under the sea feed off iron on the ship, forming “rusticles”. Given the way the embrittled steel at the stern of the ship provides a better “habitat” for rusticles, scientists have determined that the stern section of the ship is deteriorating at a faster rate than the bow section.
Rusticles grow on either side of the window frames belonging to the Titanic. The icicle-like rusticle formations appear to pass through a cycle of growth, maturation and then fall away.
Most of RMS Titanic remains in its final resting place. It is located 350 nautical miles from the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, some 12,000 feet below sea level.
After the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912, some objects were salvaged among the flotsam and jetsam. Salvage of the ship was impossible until 1985, when modern technology was used to make remotely operated approaches on the vessel. Not only is the ship almost 4 kilometres underwater, the water pressure at that depth is over 6,500 pounds per square inch.
It was long thought that the Titanic sank in one piece. Though previous expeditions had been mounted, it was the 1985 Franco-American expedition led by Jean-Louis Michel and Robert Ballard which discovered that the ship had split apart before sinking to the seabed.
The ship’s stern and bow lie around 0.6 km apart in a site since named Titanic Canyon. Both sustained huge damage when they collided with the seabed, especially the stern. The bow, meanwhile, contains relatively intact interiors.
The debris field around Titanic is around 5 by 3 miles large. It is spread over with furniture, personal items, wine bottles and parts of the ship. It is from this debris field that salvagers have been permitted to collect items.
While many of Titanic’s victims who would have worn life jackets may have been swept miles away, some victims are thought to have lain in the debris field. But decomposition and consumption by sea creatures has likely left just their shoes. The possibility of extant human remains has been raised, however. Proponents argue that the wreckage should be designated a gravesite with prohibitions on salvage.
The centre anchor and two side anchors were among the last items to be fitted to Titanic before her launch. The centre anchor was the largest ever forged by hand and weighed nearly 16 tons.
The Titanic wreck continues to deteriorate. A submersible dive in 2019 identified the loss of the captain’s bathtub, while another submersible vehicle crashed into the ship later that year while filming a documentary.
According to EYOS Expeditions, “intense and highly unpredictable currents” resulted in “accidental contact [being] occasionally made with the seafloor and on one occasion the wreck”.
Fish have been pictured in the vicinity of the Titanic wreck. On the surface, the water’s freezing temperatures meant that many of the survivors in the water died of hypothermia before the first rescuers on board RMS Carpathia arrived around 4 am on 15 April 1912.