Report: Titanic Hull on Verge of Collapse

A T L A N T A, Aug. 15, 2000 -- Time is quickly running out to get inside theTitanic because its hull is deteriorating more rapidly thanexpected, said the president of the Atlanta-based companyconducting salvage operations at the ship.

The only items recovered from the ocean liner that sank on itsmaiden voyage on April 14, 1912, are scattered in a debris fieldaround the ship’s hull.

This summer’s work in the area 350 miles south of Newfoundlandhas led to the recovery of about 500 artifacts, including athird-class passenger’s purse with its contents intact, said ArnieGeller, president of the RMS Titanic Inc. Geller’s company is theonly one authorized to salvage items from the shipwreck.

But treasures and historic artifacts still inside the ship’shull may never be salvaged unless crews make progress within thenext season or two.

Scientists have estimated that iron-eating microbes already haveconsumed as much as 20 percent of the bow.

Dramatic Changes in Hull

According to Geller, scientists anticipated two years ago thatrapid deterioration would occur over the next five years. Diverslooking at the shipwreck in recent weeks say the ship could lasttwo more years — or could collapse like an accordion within months.

“It was dramatically different between two years ago and today.We were all very surprised,” Geller said.

David Concannon, a Philadelphia attorney who represents RMSTitanic, has recently spent 16 hours in a submersible, helpingrecovery operations with Titanic expedition veterans. They alsowere shocked when they saw the extent of deterioration.

“It’s devastating to look at. The wreck is not what you imaginewhen you see it on film or in books,” he said.

Geller hopes to place robotic cameras inside the hull before thescheduled Aug. 30 conclusion of this season’s expedition to recordrooms that have not been seen before, in case the ship collapses.

Beyond August, the weather is too severe for further work.

Titanic Controversy

In early August, U.S. District Judge J. Calvitt Clarke Jr.issued an order keeping the company from cutting into the Titanic’shull and banning the sale of items taken from the shipwreck.

The orders came after RMS Titanic Inc. officials said they weresearching for $300 million in lost diamonds and suggested theymight sell “non-historical” items from the wreckage. The companyhas already sold chunks of coal and some coins as collateral forloans.

The court has ruled that Titanic artifacts can be sold only as asingle collection for public display. RMS Titanic has raised moneyfor salvage operations with traveling exhibitions of Titanicartifacts.