A team of researchers using sonar imaging and capturing 130,000 photos from underwater robots has mapped the entire Titanic debris field for the first time ever. The map indicates the location of various objects and parts of the ship and is part of an effort to make sense of exactly what happened when the vessel sunk. New details like the direction of the ship's stern, which twisted and rotated rather than sinking straight down to the bottom, may help shed light on how the wreck happened and whether it could have been avoided.
RMS TItanic Inc., the legal custodian of the wreck spearheaded the expedition to gather the information for this map in 2010. It is the most complete map of the wreckage to date. "With the sonar map, it's like suddenly the entire room lit up and you can go from room to room with a magnifying glass and document it," said Titanic historian Parks Stephenson who consulted on the expedition.
The map, which allows scientists to study the wreck the way they would a plane crash on land, covers a 3 by 5 mile area. Robots called autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) traveled across the grid at slow speed, and captured high resolution photos in a smaller area where most of the debris was located. This project is significantly more technologically advanced than previous efforts to map the wreck site. The History Channel will air the findings from this expedition in a documentary on April 15, which is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking.