Researchers Peer at Stern, But Decline to Send Robot In With AM-Titanic Watchers, Bjt
WOODS HOLE, Mass. (AP) _ Researchers descended more than two miles Monday to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean and peered at the stern of the Titanic, but decided not to send a robot into the wreckage for fear it would become snagged.
Expedition leader Robert Ballard described the stern as ″one huge piece with a lot of wreckage around.″
The researchers had intended to send Jason Jr., a lawnmower-sized robot equipped with a camera, into the stern, but abandoned the idea because the cavity formed where the storm ripped away from the rest of the luxury liner was too mangled.
″It was too spooky,″ said Ballard, speaking in a ship-to-shore telephone hook-up from the Atlantis II research ship about 400 miles off Newfoundland.
Ballard was afraid the robot’s tether would have been snagged on jagged openings, said Shelley Lauzon, a spokeswoman for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Instead, the researchers peered into the stern through video cameras mounted on the submersible, dubbed Alvin.
Ballard said he found the stern Monday about 600 yards south of the bow section, set upright and buried deep in the seabed. The rudder was seen but not the propeller, he said.
The expedition had hoped to photograph a stern marking emblazoned with name Southampton, the ship’s home port in Britain, but Ballard said the letters had rusted off.
The researchers in the submarine also used a mechanical device to install a 20-pound bronze plaque on the stern’s poop deck.
The plaque, donated by the Titanic Historical Society of Springfield reads:
″In memory of those souls who perished with the Titanic April 14-15, 1912. Dedicated to William H. Tantum IV, whose dream to find the Titanic has been realized by Dr. Robert D. Ballard. The officers and members of the Titanic Historical Society Incorporated, 1986.″
William Tantum died in 1980 before finding the sunken luxury liner. Tantum and Ballard had been officers of Seaonics Inc., formed to organize an expedition to find the vessel.
In the coming days, researchers intend to go deep inside the liner with Jason Jr., said Ballard.
The massive rear section of the ship was discovered almost by accident over the weekend. It showed up on pictures taken by a remote-controlled camera being towed 2 1/2 miles below the Atlantic behind Atlantis II.
The fate of the rear of the ship, believed to have broken off as the ship hit the bottom, had been unknown.
Ballard said the photographs showed the stern section of the 882-foot long Titanic lying on the ocean floor about 200 feet from the forward two-thirds of the wreck.
The team from the Oceanographic Institution had spent a week touring the forward section of the ship in the three-man submarine, directing a remote- controlled robot into areas of the ship where intact crystal chandeliers were spotted, swaying gently in a light underwater current.
The ship sunk early on the morning of April 15, 1912, hours after it hit an iceberg while on its maiden voyage from England. Of those aboard, 1,513 passengers and crew were killed. The 704 survivors were mainly women and children.
Researchers made their first of 12 dives at the Titanic site July 13.
The Navy is paying $220,000 to test Jason Jr. The expedition is scheduled to return here July 28.