From the moment the devastating news reached New York, America has been utterly enthralled by the Titanic disaster. We savor mental images of the super rich clinging to debris, drowning because they grabbed jewels instead of a life vest, and we still can't help but wonder whether the iceberg was cosmic punishment for the arrogance of claiming an "unsinkable" ship. Even 100 years later, we want to know what else the wreck can teach us.
Have engineers learned anything from the loss of the unsinkable Titanic? Will they ever?
By Edward TennerPosted 04.17.2012 at 10:42 am 18 Comments
The hundredth anniversary of the wreck of the Titanic on April 15 provides a welcome moment to celebrate the many great strides made by engineers. In 2012, people move around the world more quickly and more safely than ever before. But the fate of the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of western Italy in January, reminds us that no matter how much progress we make, disasters still happen. It also presents a question: After a century of advances in naval engineering, why are we still unable to prevent deadly wrecks?
The Titanic may have struck an iceberg and sank helplessly because of a strange atmosphere-caused optical illusion, a new book argues. British historian Tim Maltin says super refraction, an extraordinary bending of light that causes mirages, prevented the Titanic’s crew from seeing the fateful iceberg.
To perform the first scientific survey of the entire Titanic site this summer, the crew of 30 researchers needed several miles of fiber-optic cable and a phalanx of robots. Now that they’ve imaged every surface of the historic ruins, all you’ll need to view their 3-D photo-real model of the wreck is a computer.
Director James Cameron has commissioned Australian designers to build a sub that can plunge 36,000 feet beneath the surface of the ocean, hoping to combine his love for deep waters with his apparent craving for cash. If he can pull it off, he could win a $10 million X Prize and shoot footage for an “Avatar” sequel simultaneously.
Armed with better batteries and stronger materials, new submersibles aim to go deeper than ever before and open up the whole of the unexplored ocean to human eyes
By Abe StreepPosted 08.05.2009 at 12:46 pm 4 Comments
The Deep Flight II sub uses stubby wings that propel it down like an airplane goes up.
By liberal estimates, we've explored about 5 percent of the seas, and nearly all of that in the first 1,000 feet. That's the familiar blue part, penetrated by sunlight, home to the colorful reefs and just about every fish you've ever seen. Beyond that is the deep—a pitch-black region that stretches down to roughly 35,800 feet, the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Nearly all the major oceanographic finds made in that region—hydrothermal vents and the rare life-forms that thrive in the extreme temperatures there, sponges that can treat tumors, thousands of new species, the Titanic—have occurred above 15,000 feet, the lower limit of the world's handful of manned submersibles for most of the past 50 years.
Now engineers want to unlock the rest of the sea with a new fleet of manned submersibles. And they don't have to go to the very bottom to do it. In fact, only about 2 percent of the seafloor lies below 20,000 feet, in deep, muddy trenches. If we extend our current reach just 5,000 feet—another mile—it will open about 98 percent of the world's oceans to scientific eyes.
By Mark SchropePosted 05.25.2005 at 1:00 pm 0 Comments
Deep-sea explorer Robert Ballard led the team that discovered the wreck of the Titanic in the North Atlantic in 1985. Since that time, more than 100 scientists and tourists have visited the two-mile-deep site in submersibles. Now Ballard has a high-tech plan to radically expand the number of people who can visit the beloved wreck: Equip the Titanic for real-time virtual visitation with a system of video-equipped remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) permanently installed on the ocean floor [see Popular Science’s rendition of the system in our July issue].
The world’s most famous sunken wreck becomes a boon for deep-sea microbiologists.
By Gregory MonePosted 07.22.2004 at 12:00 pm 0 Comments
Oceanographer Robert Ballard is returning to the Titanic, but it’s not the same sunken ship he found in 1985. The deep ocean has been steadily dismantling the once-great cruise liner, and scientists say the process is unlike any they’ve ever seen. “Even if we could stop it, I wouldn’t,”says forensic archaeologist Charles Pellegrino.
Bill Paxton and Genya Chernaiev help the Cameron brothers explore the Ghosts of the Abyss using two custom bots.
By Trevor ThiemePosted 04.07.2003 at 1:34 pm 0 Comments
Apparently James Cameron's Titanic obsession is genetic. His brother Mike's engineering firm, Dark Matter, custom-built two remotely operated vehicles to probe the Titanic's multitude of staterooms, stairwells and cargo spaces. Brother James then used these ROVs to help shoot the 3-D Imax documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss, which opens April 11. We spoke with the brothers about the ROVs, the Titanic and why the Navy is interested in doing business with them.
Popular Science There are plenty of ROVs out there. Why build your own?