The wreck of Titanic may soon vanish
When it set sail on its maiden voyage in 1912, no one could have predicted what the opulent RMS Titanic would look like now – a rusting hulk at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. But at least something remains of the ship, more than a century after its ill-fated transatlantic journey.
However, scientists believe that in a few decades there may be nothing left of the ship at all, thanks to a species of bacteria which is slowly eating away its iron hull.
Robert Ballard, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island in Narragansett, discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985. What was not widely known at the time was that the discovery only came about because of Ballard's involvement in a secret US Navy mission to locate the wrecks of two US nuclear submarines sunk during the Cold War. It just happened that the Titanic was found between the two wrecks.
At the time of that initial discovery the ship was remarkably preserved. It is 3.8km below the surface, and the lack of light and the intense pressures make the area inhospitable to most life, slowing corrosion. Fast-forward 30 years, though, and the hull is rusting away, thanks to metal-munching bacteria. Some researchers now give the shipwreck just another 14 years before it is gone forever.