'Titanic' wreck being destroyed by tourists, marine expert warns Â Â
Saturday 22 May 2004
The wreck of the
Titanic is being slowly destroyed by tour operators, film crews and trophy hunters who have stripped more than 6,000 objects from the ship since it was discovered on the Atlantic seabed in 1985.
The wreck of the Titanic is being slowly destroyed by tour operators, film crews and trophy hunters who have stripped more than 6,000 objects from the ship since it was discovered on the Atlantic seabed in 1985.
Robert Ballard, who found the Titanic, said that a "circus" has developed around the shipwreck over the past 20 years despite it being the last resting place of the people who drowned when it struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage in 1912.
Dr Ballard, a marine archaeologist who has found dozens of important shipwrecks, said the Titanic should be protected against further damage out of respect for its heritage and for those who lost their lives.
Many of the visits to the Titanic have involved landing heavy equipment on its decks which have caved in under the weight. Some structures, such as the crow's nest, have also been destroyed, he said.
Most of the visits have had little to do with scientific research. "A few years ago a couple of people went down and got married on the bow, ... it's like going to a cemetery to get married," Dr Ballard said.
"We're not against visitation, ... we've supported visitation, but we don't want the visits to be destructive," he said.
"Our goal is to write down guidelines for visits. If you go and visit Stonehenge, you don't knock over the stones. That's what we're trying to do with the Titanic."
Next month, Dr Ballard will make his first return visit to the wreck as part of an expedition funded by the National Geographic Channel to study what has happened to the ship over the past 20 years.
"We've heard all sorts of horror stories and being scientists the best way is to go out and look for yourself," he said.
Dr Ballard carried out a detailed survey of the Titanic after its discovery and will use this archived information to make comparisons.
"We will try to figure out how much of the change to the Titanic has been the result of natural change and how much of the change is human-induced," he said. "Whatever has happened to the Titanic will be very obvious. It will not be something that has been brushed away by the sea or other activities."
The Titanic is remarkably well preserved because, lying on the seabed under 12,000 feet of water, there is very little oxygen to degrade the ship's contents. "The Titanic is in a high state of preservation, particularly inside where you can see furniture, drapery and all sorts of things, Dr Ballard said. "As you go deeper inside and eventually enter the engine room it will be full of crew."
Next month's expedition involves a satellite-guided survey ship which will control three remotely operated submersibles which will explore the ship more carefully than anyone has done previously.
The main robot, called Hercules, carries an underwater arm for manipulating objects as well as a variety of excavation tools. Two other robots, called Argus and Little Herc, carry a battery of powerful lights and high-definition video cameras to produce detailed images of the wreck and the surrounding site.
Although the US Congress passed a law protecting the Titanic from salvage operations, the ship remains vulnerable to ships flying under the flag of other nations, Dr Ballard said.
"The people who have done the salvage are civil servants from France and the people who have been going out with film crews and tour boats are civil servants from Russia," he said.
"It's much simpler for nations to try to protect the Titanic since it is nations that have these assets," he added.
Dr Ballard said he wanted the preservation of the Titanic to set an example for many of the other shipwrecks under similar threat.
"We estimate that there are as many as one million ships of antiquity in the high seas," he said. "With the Titanic we have a wonderful opportunity to bring the public's attention to this fact."
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Budget 2015: George Osborne to axe subsidies for higher income earners in social housing
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...
£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...