AUVs, ROVs key to bringing back new Titanic images and data
Last week the RMS Titanic, Inc. finally finished up an unprecedented photography expedition at the site of the sunken Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland. The team obtained high-definition and even 3D images which surpassed any photos taken of the wreck site to date. They completed the mission just in time, too, with Hurricane Igor ushering them back to shore like a cranky museum security guard scolding you for taking too many pictures.
To pull of this photographic feat, the company required some seriously advanced technologies. Pictured here, the Remora ROV (remote operated vehicle) from Phoenix International used scanning and profiling equipment for the purpose of surveying the Titanic's bow section. Cute little fella, hey?
It is this sonar data that will be combined with optical data to build a three-dimensional view of the underwater site. While it might not be the 3D imagery that you're used to reading about here on Gizmag, we certainly can't complain considering they depths they had to go to get it.
RMS Titanic also employed AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) from the Waitt Institute. These vehicles operate without a pilot – as you may have guessed – and without any attached cables, relying on acoustic communication with separate fixed transponders.
An AUV follows a pre-programmed back-and-forth pattern, collecting data from the sea floor that can be used to create a composite map. A pair of these AUVs nicknamed Mary Ann and Ginger finally finished up their last missions at the site on September 15. That's Ginger pictured below.
As remarkable as the RMS Titanic photo expedition was, this week it is being overshadowed by a new theory involving a misunderstanding of rudder and tiller orders, the two steering systems that existed at the time.
This confusion may have actually caused the Titanic to steer into the iceberg rather than away from it, according Louise Patten, granddaughter of the ship's Second Officer: "[The] systems were the complete opposite of one another, so a command to turn 'hard a-starboard' meant turn the wheel right under one system and left under the other".
It's been nearly 25 years since the Titanic's wreck was discovered, and the anniversary of its sinking is coming up in 2012. While many argued against this expedition to the site, the collected data will go a long way to preserving the memory of the Titanic even as the actual ship continues to gradually break down on the ocean floor.