First Titanic expedition in 14 years uncovers ‘partial collapse of hull’

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption The wreck sits 3.8km down at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption The wreck sits 3.8km down at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean

The wreck of the Titanic could be lost forever, say scientists, after the first dive expedition in 14 years showed key parts had been washed away.

Photo of the RMS Titanic circa 1800s.

The team of divers found that the hull near the officers' quarters on the starboard side of the ship has started to collapse, taking with it the vessel's luxurious stateroom accommodation, according to exploration company Caladan Oceanic.

Lori Johnson, an expedition scientist, said: "The future of the wreck is going to continue to deteriorate over time, it's a natural process".

Titanic sank in April 1912 after hitting an ice berg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to NY.

"The captain's bathtub is a favorite image among Titanic enthusiasts - and that's now gone", he told the British outlet, calling the discovery "shocking". Of the 2,200 passengers and crew onboard, more than 1,500 died.

Lying nearly 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) down in water of about 1°C (33.8°F), the wreck is vulnerable to sweeping eddies, ever-changing sea currents, salt corrosion, and metal-eating bacteria.

That's the word from members of a deep-ocean exploration team who visited the site, almost 13,000 feet beneath the surface, during a 10-day expedition in late July and early August. They used a submersible vehicle, DSV Limiting Factor, made by the United States company Triton Submarines.

Navigating the sub around the wreck, which lies in two main pieces about 600m apart, was challenging.

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McCallum said with the help of a submersible, they held five successful dives over a 10-day period from July 29.

Researchers also placed scientific experiments near the wreck to conduct research.

The footage that the team captured will be part of a documentary from London-based Atlantic Productions.

Despite the near-freezing conditions, pitch black waters and enormous pressure, life is thriving there.

"There are microbes on the shipwreck that are eating away the iron of the wreck itself, creating "rusticle" structures, which is a much weaker form of the metal", expedition scientist and marine environment researcher Clare Fitzsimmons from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom told the BBC. "These are natural types of bacteria, so the reason that the deterioration process ends up being quite a bit faster, is a group of bacteria, a community working symbiotically to eat, if you will the Iron and the sulphur".

These rusticles - stalactites of rust hanging off the wreck - are so fragile that they can crumble into a cloud of dust if disturbed.

"Until now only 157 clients have had the opportunity to dive on the Titanic, but many films and documentaries have been produced for a variety of worldwide broadcasters".

"I think it's still important to go down and visit the wreck", the England's National Maritime Museum senior curator Robert Blyth said, "because of course, the wreck itself is now the only witness we've got of the Titanic disaster".

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