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Largest Underwater 3D Scan in History Could Provide New Details on Titanic’s Sinking

Photo Credit: Francis Goldolphin Osbourne Stuart / Fidodog14 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain / CC BY-SA 4.0, Atlantic Productions / Magellan
Photo Credit: Francis Goldolphin Osbourne Stuart / Fidodog14 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain / CC BY-SA 4.0, Atlantic Productions / Magellan

On April 15, 1912, Titanic collided with an iceberg and sank. For over 100 years, she has been frozen in time at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The cruise liner has captured the public’s imagination, and after the wreck’s 1985 discovery, has spurred documentaries as well as the 1997 feature film. Titanic is now the focus of the largest underwater three-dimensional scans in history, making images available to the public like never before.

Titanic in 3D

Titanic rests nearly 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada, at a depth of 12,500 feet. Footage of the wreckage has always focused on certain parts of the ship because the cameras being used could only capture so much. But Magellan Ltd, a deep-sea mapping company, has used state-of-the-art technology to create a 3D reconstruction, or “digital twin,” of Titanic.

Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.
Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912. (Photo Credit: Francis Goldophin Osbourne Stuart / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

In the summer of 2022, the team used two remote-controlled submersibles named Romeo and Juliet that studied Titanic for 200 hours. During this time, over 700,000 images were taken at every angle, capturing every millimeter of the ship. What the Magellan team accomplished is, as Richard Parkinson, the founder of the company, said, “astonishing.”

Parkinson added, “Over the course of the Titanic project, the volume of data that we acquired was enormous-around 715,000 images and some 16 terabytes of data. We believe that this data is approximately ten times larger than any underwater 3D model that’s ever been attempted before.”

Bow section of Titanic, taken by the ROV Hercules during a June 2004 expedition to the shipwreck.
Bow of Titanic, June 2004. (Photo Credit: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / University of Rhode Island / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Gerhard Seiffert, who planned the expedition, said this of the project: “What we’ve created is a highly accurate photorealistic 3D model of the wreck. Previously footage has only allowed you to see one small area of the wreck at a time… This model will allow people to zoom out and to look at the entire thing for the first time.”

The project was not without its issues, as the wreckage is prone to damage. “And the other challenge is that you have to map every square centimeter, even uninteresting parts, like on the debris field, you have to map mud, but you need this to fill in between all these interesting objects,” Seiffert added.

Despite these challenges, the project has resulted in a spectacular 3D rendering of Titanic on the sea floor.

‘The beginning of a new chapter’

Parks Stephenson, a researcher who has focused on Titanic for 20 years, called the creation of the 3D model “a true game changer” and said that the achievement “is the beginning of a new chapter.”

Press release image by Megellan.
Titanic 3D reconstruction. (Photo Credit: Atlantic Productions / Magellan)

The images captured are so detailed that the ship’s wreckage is not the only thing visible in these images. Champagne bottles, statues, and even passenger shoes can be seen. Remarkably, the serial number on one of the propellers is still legible.

More from us: The ‘Titanic Orphans’ Were Abducted By Their Father Before Surviving the Ship’s Sinking

The aim of this project is to help researchers reveal some of the secrets the wreckage still holds. As the underwater environment slowly destroys Titanic, researchers are all too aware that their time with the ship is slowly coming to an end. And with many questions still unanswered, this scan will be an invaluable tool – not only for researchers today but those in the future as well.

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Ryan McLachlan

Ryan McLachlan is a historian and content writer for Hive Media. He received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Classical Studies and his Master of Arts in History from the University of Western Ontario. Ryan’s research focused on military history, and he is particularly interested in the conflicts fought by the United Kingdom from the Napoleonic Wars to the Falklands War.

Ryan’s other historical interests include naval and maritime history, the history of aviation, the British Empire, and the British Monarchy. He is also interested in the lives of Sir Winston Churchill and Admiral Lord Nelson. Ryan enjoys teaching, reading, writing, and sharing history with anyone who will listen.

In his spare time, he enjoys watching period dramas such as Murdoch Mysteries and Ripper Street and also enjoys reading classical literature and Shakespeare. He also plays football and is an afternoon tea connoisseur.