A longitudinal biodiversity survey of the world’s most famous shipwreck and deep-sea artificial reef.
In 2021, an expeditionary team conducted the first phase of a multi-year series of crewed submersible dives to explore and document the condition of RMS Titanic and portions of the nearly unexplored debris field. This longitudinal study is planned as a series of annual expeditions to better assess changes over time as the ship decays and the wreck site evolves.
Following the tragic sinking in 1912, the wreck and artifacts have been subject to a harsh environment of corrosive saltwater, extreme pressure, and biological attacks. These factors are combining to disintegrate the wreck at some unknown rate. The science team will compare the current condition to images and data from previous expeditions to better predict the rate of decay.
On each of the submersible dives a scientist or content expert is onboard to gather archaeological and biological data. The long-term goals of the expedition are to:
- better understand behavior and rarity of inhabitants at this extreme depth,
- help predict the rate of decay of deeply submerged vessels,
- supplement the work done on past scientific expeditions to capture data and images that are missing from the scientific record, ans
- document the marine line inhabiting the wreck site to compare against data collected on prior scientific expeditions to better assess changes in the habitat as the shipwreck decays.
The data and images from the expedition will be freely shared with the other researchers to help expand our understanding of the ocean.
All OceanGate Foundation underwater exploration is conducted in accordance with the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.
2023: Phase 3
The science and expedition teams are preparing equipment, research plans, and resources to return to Titanic in May and June of 2023. The multi-disciplinary team will continue their survey efforts that began in Phase 1 and Phase 2.
2022: Phase 2
Following the success of the 2021 Titanic Expedition, the expeditionary team returned to the site in the summer of 2022 to continue exploring and documenting the condition of the historic shipwreck and debris field.
Our sponsored science team utilized advanced and time-tested techniques to gather data for future analysis. An array of 4K and 8K cameras, 2D sonar scanners, direct observation and grid mapping are just some of the techniques and equipment that the team utilized during each of the dives that lasted up to 10 hours.
The team also conducted the first-ever Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of the site to help determine the presence of species around the wreck.
2021: Phase 1
During the summer of 2021, a multi-disciplinary expedition team conducted the first phase of a multi-year series of crewed submersible dives to explore and document the condition of RMS Titanic and portions of the nearly unexplored debris field.
This inaugural phase and series of dives included experts in marine biology, nautical archaeology, marine ecology, and Titanic history. The team succeeded in capturing thousands of images of the bow section, stern section, and portions of the massive debris field. This data is a great resource for assessing changes in the condition of the site and continues to provide a solid foundation for planning future dives and surveys.
Titanic Expedition Goals
Dr. Bridget Buxton
“My primary goal for the Titanic Expedition is to make sure we maximize our time and technology to get the most comprehensive picture of the wreck site ever created, and to make as much as possible freely available online as soon as practical after the expedition. Beyond that, I have a wish-list of specific questions to explore – the dozens of little controversies that occupy so many Titanic books and interest groups. Insofar as we’ll have an opportunity to tell a new story about Titanic through this expedition, I want the focus to be on the experience of the lesser-known victims of the disaster, in perhaps the less glamorous parts of the ship. This series of expeditions is a chance to dismantle a lot of the cultural myths of the Titanic disaster that were used, both then and now, to define Anglo-American ideals of heroism, gender, and class.”
Using HD video, document (identify, count) the fauna of the wreck and surrounding areas, including the water column. When possible, obtain close-up detailed video of fauna for later analysis.
In particular, my goals are to:
- Focus on the fish community and attached deep-sea corals.
- Document habitat usage of the observed fauna.
- Using above data, compare to other sites in the Western North Atlantic in similar depths and across depth zones.
- Gather observational and ADCP data on bottom currents during dives.
- Evaluate the site for future missions and start plan development (with OceanGate team and colleagues).
“My goals for the expedition is for the imagery and other data we collect to serve a larger archaeological purpose — we increasingly have the ability to find and study shipwrecks at tremendous depths, and but we are still developing the theoretical frameworks through which to view and study these wrecks as a discipline. I want this series of expeditions to explore Titanic from a more clinical point of view — think about how we are contributing to the discipline more widely through doing this work, rather than simply getting better pictures of the shipwreck. I would like to further Bridget’s point about using this time to highlight the experiences of lesser-known passengers on board, to shed light on experiences of the people we don’t hear about, or whose stories were manipulated at the time and since to fit a specific narrative about customs of the sea, manliness and heroism.”