After 107 years at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, the wreck of the mighty Titanic is falling apart. That’s not too surprising, but the reason for the deterioration may surprise you: bacteria.
Over the course of eight days earlier this month, experts visited the wreckage in person for the first time since 2005. Titanic historian Parks Stephenson described one area of the ship — a portion of the officers’ quarters — as being in “shocking” condition.
“Captain’s bathtub is a favorite image among Titanic enthusiasts, and now that’s gone,” Stephenson said in a statement about the excursion. “That whole deck hole on that side is collapsing, taking with it the staterooms, and the deterioration is going to continue advancing.”
Here’s a pic of the bathtub before it disappeared into the rubble:
Using a two-man submersible, the team gathered high-definition footage for an upcoming documentary, as well as images to use in studying the wreck.
Located about 370 miles south of Newfoundland, Titanic’s remains lie 12,500 feet below the ocean’s surface.
Atlantic Productions, the company producing the future documentary, shared one of the new photos on its Instagram account late last week:
In addition to the intense pressure at that depth, the Titanic’s hull is disintegrating from the natural activity of bacteria. Researchers from Canada’s Dalhousie University discovered a new species of bacteria growing at the shipwreck and named it after the legendary vessel: Halomonas titanicae.
H. titanicae has a taste for iron and can survive at great depths. It’s also able to adapt to varying levels of salinity in seawater, making it one tough, metal-munching microbe.
One Titanic scholar wasn’t super-surprised by the doomed luxury liner’s condition. Oceanographer David Gallo visited the site remotely in 2010 and told USA Today that it looks about the same in the new photos.
“I don’t see what was seen as being ‘shocking,'” he said. “It’s been over 100 years and the ship shows wear, but it certainly looks like it’s going to last another 100 years.”
That’s good news for explorers, certainly — but no matter what happens, the legend of the Titanic is sure to outlast the shipwreck itself.