This last week saw a lot of reporting in print and online about a recent dive to Titanic. These were the most up-to-date photos of the wreck. Commentators went agog describing how it was falling apart. Some blamed it on global warming. Some opined it should be brought up. Others had silly things to say as well. But a few pointed out this is exactly what is supposed to be happening so this is not a surprise.
Titanic sank in 1912 and has been resting in two parts on the bottom of the cold North Atlantic ever since. Until 1985, no one had a clue as to what it would look like. And people were stunned by what was revealed. It also confirmed that, as some reported back in 1912, the ship had broken in two. Another thing that was dashed was the concept of a long gash. Instead it was punctures caused by the iceberg that resulted in water entering the ship.
Scientists have noted over the years that Titanic was slowing but surely going to deteriorate. Photos from later expeditions confirmed this was well underway. A recent article in Forbes about this decay noted the following:
During the first visit to the wreck in 1985, scientists observed bacteria and fungi colonizing the rusty remains. One type of bacteria was an unknown species, appropriately named Halomonos titanicae in 2010. Oxidizing the iron parts, the microorganisms produce energy to sustain their metabolism. The waste products of the microbial metabolism is a thick layer of rust, covering the entire wreck, forming stalactites (called rusticles) along the hull.
Every day, the microorganisms consume almost 100 pounds of iron. The peculiar feeding mechanism causes quickly growing holes in the steel plates of the outer hull. The upper ship’s decks are made from thin steel plates, so these quickly decaying this part of the ship may collapse in a few years. The lower parts of the ship’s hull are made of thicker plates. They will likely decay over the next few decades. In the end, the weakened hull will collapse entirely and be buried by sediments, transported by underwater currents.
Other things had an impact. Now there is disagreement as why there are so many microorganisms on Titanic. Some say it is due to over fishing (which means those little microorganisms multiplied and sank to bottom and found Titanic delicious) while others argue it is actually what is supposed to be happening.
The fact that Titanic is decaying is not news but the news media throws it up like this could not or should not be happening. Except of course we know that it could not possibly stay the same. And eventually the wreck will slowly but steadily decrease in mass as the sea claims as much as it can. One day most of it will no longer by visible. Only bits and pieces will remain of the once great liner. Fortunately we have a library of photographs and artifacts along with exhibits that will keep the story alive long after the wreck is gone.
Famed explorer Robert Ballard is now looking for evidence that will determine what finally happened to Amelia Earhart who disappeared in July 1937. She was a famed aviator of her day one of the rare female aviators in a male dominated area. She achieved a lot putting her on par with another famous aviator Charles Lindbergh.
It has been an enduring mystery to find out what happened to her. Many claims over the years have been made–some fanciful and others grounded in logic–but nothing has yet been found to prove what happened to her. Ballard sees this as another challenge to perhaps correct history much like what he did with Titanic. Below is a re-posting of a write up I did on Amelia Earhart. Hopefully he does find something definitive so we can at last know what happened back in 1937.
A few days ago the 80th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance went by without much notice in the press. There was some obligatory mentions in This Day In History write-ups and a mention of a possible finding of her plane. So who was Amelia Earhart and why was she important?
On 20 May 1932, five years after Charles Lindbergh made his famous solo nonstop flight from the U.S. to France, Amelia Earhart set out to be the first female aviator to accomplish the same feat. Unlike Lindbergh, Earhart was already well known before this flight. She gained fame in 1928 as part of a three person crew to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airplane. On that trip, she kept the plane’s log. Early on 20 May 1932, her Lockheed Vega 5B took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. She intended to replicate Lindbergh’s flight but encountered strong northerly winds, mechanical problems, and icy conditions. Instead of landing in France, she landed in a pasture at Culmore(north of Derry)in Northern Ireland. When asked by a farmhand how far she had flown, she famously said “From America.”
Her feat received international acclaim. She received the Distinguished Flying Cross in the U.S., Cross of Honor of the Legion of Honor from France, and the Gold Medal from the National Geographic Society. Her fame allowed her develop friendships with many important and influential people such as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Earhart would continue to make solo flights and set records. Sadly her next most famous mission would forever be shrouded in mystery. In 1937 she attempted–along with copilot Frederick Noonan–to fly around the world. On 2 Jul 1937, her plane disappeared near Howland Island in the South Pacific. Despite extensive searching by the U.S.Navy and Coast Guard, no trace of the plane or its pilots were ever found. The search was called off on 19 July.
Earhart was declared legally dead on 5 Jul 1939 so that her estate could pay bills. Since then numerous theories as to what happened have been put forth. Many believe her plane either crashed and sank or that they landed on an island and perished awaiting rescue. Some intriguing evidence recovered in 2012 off Nikumaroro might be from their plane which supports the crash and sank hypothesis. More speculative theories have her being a spy for FDR or being captured and executed (along with Noonan)by the Japanese on Saipan (the area checked for the pilots bodies revealed nothing). A 1970 book claiming she had survived, moved to New Jersey, and changed her name to Irene Craigmile Bolam. There really was an Irene Bolam who had been a banker in New York in the 1940’s. She sued the publisher and obtained an out-of-court settlement. The book was taken off the market. National Geographic debunked it in 2006 on Undiscovered History.
Amelia Earhart: Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard bids to solve mystery (12 August 2019, The National) “The man who found the Titanic and the Bismarck at the bottom of the Atlantic is now turning his full attention to finding the aircraft in which Earhart apparently perished on July 2, 1937, while attempting what would have been the longest flight around the world at the time. ”
Halifax tour company limiting visits to Titanic cemetery due to sewer work (9 Aug 2019,CBC) “A Halifax tour bus company has temporarily halted visits to a cemetery that houses 121 Titanic victims because of emergency repair work being done to a sewer line where its buses normally park. The unexpected and urgent work on Chisholm Avenue is expected to take two more weeks to complete. The construction has blocked off one of the main entries to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery.”
Opening up the Titanic’s toolbox: Rare shipyard artefacts go on display (2 Aug 2019, Belfast Telegraph)”Many of the items have never been valued and are being displayed for the first time within Titanic Belfast’s Andrews Gallery from today. The Out of Stores: Explore Our Shipyard Collection runs throughout August and has opened up Titanic Foundation’s extensive archives to showcase a selection of never-seen-before items.