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For 73 years the Titanic was kept in good condition, until it was discovered

Preservation / Natural factors and the flow of visitors accelerated the disintegration of the shipwreck

William Broad, New York Times

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In September 1985, a French-American team operating in the North Atlantic located the remains of a shipwreck at a depth of more than three kilometers, 600 kilometers from Newfoundland. In the 800 meters between the bow and stern, bottles of wine, chinaware and shoes were found, and it soon became clear that it was the Titanic - the luxury liner that sank on the night of April 14, 1912 after hitting an iceberg on its launch voyage from England to New York. The ship's finders declared that it was well preserved, and estimated that its condition would not deteriorate significantly over the years of its life.

Now it is clear that the assessment was wrong. It seems that the originators did not sufficiently consider the destructive effect of rust, corrosive salts and bacteria; And they certainly could not have predicted the damage they would cause to the ship

Destroyed by the many visitors who turned it into a sort of pilgrimage site. Divers who visited the Titanic in the last decade reported that the rate of its disintegration was increasing. The observation post, from which the cry "Glacier ahead!" was heard, has disappeared; The foremast collapsed; The cabin where the captain was resting when the ship hit the iceberg collapsed under him, as did the stern deck on which the passengers had gathered while the ship sank in the water.

The metal walls are falling, and streams of rust - which look like brown icicles hanging from the ship's iron plates - have multiplied to such an extent that in some places they cover the ship's hull completely. "I was amazed," said Alfred McLaren, an oceanographer and former submariner who dived to the ship in 1999 and returned to it last month. "The situation has deteriorated a lot. I expected to see roughly the situation that existed in 1999, but now there are much more rust spots."

Scientists and marine research experts say that alongside natural forces - such as the erosive effect of salt water - the worsening of the ship's condition is due to human activity on it. This has increased considerably over the years, despite the calls of Titanic preservation societies to respect the site of the ship as a burial place.

Visitors to the shipwreck go down to it in tiny submarines, adapted for diving in deep water and usually accommodating three people. Tourists pay up to 36 thousand dollars for a visit to the site. In July 2001, for example, a wedding took place there. The couple David Leibovitch and Kimberly Miller from New York were married in a mini-submarine standing on the bow.

The souvenirs left by the visitors are varied. Some scattered about a dozen memorial plaques and a large number of artificial flowers on the remains of the ship. Other divers, who participated in the rescue missions, left behind bottles of drinks, weights and chains.

Another theory that blames the condition of the ship on humans, holds that the worsening is the result of overfishing in the "Grand Banks" area near Newfoundland, not far from where the ship sank. According to this theory, behind which McLaren stands, increased fishing caused a population explosion among the tiny marine creatures, which are normally eaten by fish. These fall onto the ship's hull, like unceasing snow, and accelerate the rust. "The 'snow' feeds the rust droplets and they become more active and draw more iron from the ship's hull," explained Roy Callimore, a Canadian microbiologist.

What will happen to the Titanic? The US is showing interest in her, and is holding talks with France, Great Britain and Canada on how to preserve what is left of the world famous ship. In June, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sent six scientists to the Titanic site, to assess the condition of the ship and what is expected of it in the future.

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