Since 1912, the Titanic has been sitting 3,800 meters below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean after it hit an iceberg and sank, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew.
Because of the depth of the shipwreck, it has stayed well preserved until it was finally found back in 1985.
It has been more than thirty years since the wreck was discovered; however, scientists don’t think the remains of the Titanic have much time left.
Within the environment it sits in, the deterioration has been slowed tremendously, but in 2010 proteobacteria were found on the rusticles recovered from the salvage site.
The scientists gave the new bacteria a very fitting name, Halomonas titanicae: however, the presence and survival of this new bacteria mean that the wreck of the Titanic is quickly being corroded.
Most recent estimates predict that by the year 2030, we will most likely see a total erosion of the ship.
There has been a surprisingly evolutionary adaptation happening in the bacteria, causing the corrosion that is damaging the Titanic. It has evolved to suit the salinity of the ocean water it lives in, and therefore it survives and thrives in harsh underwater conditions.
The bacteria’s survival comes down to an osmolyte the bacteria produce which is called ectoine. The osmolytes help maintain fluid balance and the cell volume in the bacteria, allowing it to deal with sea water salt concentrations of up to 25%.
Where the Titanic lies, the water salinity lies at 3.5%, so it’s fairly easy for the bacteria to survive and flourish.
Scientists guessed it was going to happen eventually, yet they did not think the ship would disappear so soon. Yet because of the ship’s position in the popular consciousness, it is doubtful that anyone will forget the RMS Titanic any time soon.
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