'Titanic' wreck being destroyed by tourists, marine expert warns    

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."

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit