A video released last week by OceanGate Expeditions features the highest-resolution footage of the wreck of the Titanic to date. The one-minute clip of the 110-year-old ship, which rests on a seabed 2.4 miles below the surface of the North Atlantic, was captured in 8K resolution—about four times the resolution of the average 4K ultra-high-definition television.
Found less than 400 miles off Newfoundland in 1985, the wreck of the doomed luxury liner has been an enduring source of fascination ever since. The new footage, taken during a 2022 OceanGate expedition to the Titanic, gives viewers a glimpse of the vessel in vivid color, revealing the ship’s bow, portside anchor, hull and massive anchor chain.
“We are seeing new details in this footage. For example, I had never seen the name of the anchor maker, Noah Hingley & Sons Ltd., on the portside anchor,” says Rory Golden, an OceanGate Titanic expert and veteran Titanic diver, in a statement. “… One of the most amazing clips shows one of the single-ended boilers that fell to the ocean’s floor when the Titanic broke into two. Notably, it was one of the single-ended boilers that was first spotted when the wreck of the Titanic was identified back in 1985.”
OceanGate, a privately owned underwater exploration company founded in 2009, began offering annual journeys to the wreck of the Titanic in 2021. This year, civilian “mission specialists” paid $250,000 each for the privilege of joining diving experts, historians and scientists on the expedition. Compared with space tourism prices, which can reach tens of millions of dollars, this fee is just “a fraction of the cost,” OceanGate’s president, Stockton Rush, tells the New York Times’ Amanda Holpuch.
In addition to offering participants the chance to become one of fewer than 250 people to “personally [view] the Titanic and [its] surrounding debris field,” OceanGate’s expeditions conduct scientific research, collecting data on the wreck with the help of laser scanning, photogrammetric and sonar technology, according to the company’s website.
The newly captured footage supports earlier reports that the Titanic, which famously sank on its maiden voyage in April 1912, is steadily decaying. Metal-eating bacteria and deep-sea currents are the main culprits behind the deterioration, reported Ben Finley for the Associated Press in June 2021.
“We’ll have some better data next year, but it definitely is in worse condition this year than it was last,” OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush tells GeekWire’s Alan Boyle. “It’s going through its natural consumption by the ocean.”
For some historians and archaeologists, disturbance of the wreck site—in particular the removal of artifacts—raises ethical concerns. OceanGate didn’t alter the wreckage in any way, but other private companies have or plan to in the future. In May 2020, a judge ruled that the salvage firm RMS Titanic, Inc. (RMST) would be allowed to recover a Marconi telegraph machine from the Titanic. Though the pandemic and ongoing legal battles stymied this mission, RMST reiterated in a 2021 court filing that the expedition will “take place as soon as reasonably practicable,” per the Guardian.
“I don’t object to [OceanGate’s] kind of commercial exploitation because they’re not touching or damaging the wreck,” Paul F. Johnston, curator of maritime history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, tells the Times. “And it brings attention to the underwater world and to shipwrecks in general.”
Still, he adds, “[I]n my opinion, there’s not that much to be learned from Titanic that we don’t already know.”