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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Titanic expedition provides new images, but hurricane puts survey on hold

This image released on Saturday shows the starboard, or right, side of the Titanic’s bow.
This image released on Saturday shows the starboard, or right, side of the Titanic’s bow. (Premier Exhibitions Inc.-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution via AP)
Associated Press / August 31, 2010

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — A team surveying the wreck of the Titanic is showing off some crisp images of the world’s most famous shipwreck, but it has temporarily headed back to shore because of rough weather.

Officials from Expedition Titanic said Sunday that they were returning to Newfoundland because high seas and winds brought on by Hurricane Danielle were preventing researchers from carrying out their work.

The team of scientists has been using a pair of robots to take thousands of photographs and hours of video of the wreck, which lies roughly 2.5 miles below the surface. The high-resolution images include shots of the ship’s bow, clearly showing the railing and anchors.

The expedition left Newfoundland earlier this month to the spot in the Atlantic where the ship struck an iceberg in 1912 and sank. More than 1,500 passengers and crew perished on the ship’s maiden voyage.

Scientist are using imaging technology and sonar devices never utilized before on the Titanic wreck. They are probing nearly a century of sediment in the debris field to seek a full inventory of the ship’s artifacts.

The expedition is a partnership between RMS Titanic Inc., which has exclusive salvage rights to the wreck, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

The team will not collect artifacts but is scheduled to probe a 2-by-3-mile debris field where hundreds of thousands of artifacts remain scattered.

Expedition officials say they intend to return to finish their work after a delay of a few days.

Since oceanographer Robert Ballard and an international team discovered the Titanic in 1985, most of the expeditions have either been to photograph the wreck or gather thousands of artifacts, like fine china, shoes, and ship fittings.

James Cameron, who directed the film “Titanic,’’ has also led teams to the wreck to record the bow and the stern, which separated during the sinking and now lie one-third of a mile apart.

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