Washington: For the first time, scientists have created a comprehensive map of the Titanic wreck site by piecing together more than 130,000 photos taken by underwater robots deep inside the North Atlantic Ocean.
The map that shows debris and parts of the ship scattered across a 15 square-mile patch of ocean floor might provide new clues about what happened after the "unsinkable" luxury liner hit an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, killing over 1,500 of the 2,200 passengers and crew on board, researchers said.
"If we are going to do our best to manage the Titanic wreck site as a testament to those that sailed on her, we need to understand the disposition and physical state of what`s there," said Titanic expedition co-leader David Gallo at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth.
"In addition, we need to put Titanic in context of it is natural setting on the deep Atlantic seafloor," Gallo told Discovery News.
It`s not the first time that the Titanic wreck site has been mapped. The first attempts were made soon after the doomed liner was discovered in 1985. But they were incomplete, covering only fragmented portions of the wreck area.
The comprehensive survey of the wreck site took place in 2010 as part of a project aimed at "virtually raising Titanic and preserving her legacy for all time".
The project was led by RMS Titanic Inc, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Waitt Institute of La Jolla, California. They were joined by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the History channel.
During the expedition, torpedo-shaped AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) surveyed the entire search area with high-resolution side-scan sonar. Pinpointed by the AUVs, the debris-rich sites were then explored by a ROV (remote operated vehicle) fitted with cameras.
The resulting 130,000 high resolution photos were pieced together on a computer to provide a detailed photomosaic map of Titanic and the surrounding sea floor.
"We are still processing some of the data butthe elements of a 3D map are there," Gallo said.
The images are staggering. There you are on the bottom of the ocean, transported to the sea floor. It`s mindboggling; even veterans who have been to Titanic numerous times are slack-jawed," he added.
The wreck of the Titanic was found in September, 1985 about 13 miles from the last position recorded before the ship sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City and became a legend.
According to the new findings, which will be broadcast as a documentary on History Channel on April 15 to mark 100 years of the tragedy, the stern and bow of the ship are found 1,970 feet apart from each other.
Debris abound in the so-called "hell`s kitchen", an area of the seabed scattered with broken china pots, pans other cooking tools. Another debris rich area is the "coal fields", which features a large quantity of the black combustible. The Titanic left England carrying 6,000 tons of coal.
Other features on the mapped wreck site include a pile of rubble identified as "deckhouse debris," a 60-foott long chunk of the side of the ship, five of the ship`s huge boilers, and pieces of the ship`s bottom.
The layout of the wreck site, where the pieces ended and how they are arranged and oriented on the ground, might help solve some of the remaining mysteries on how the Titanic broke apart and sank, the researchers said.
For example, marks on the ocean floor to the west of the stern, with debris concentrated to the east, indicated that the stern rotated, they added.