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Icebergs ahead? This year’s Titanic trips will start early

OceanGate Expeditions, which has conducted dives to the site of the Titanic shipwreck in 2021 and 2022, says it will begin its trips a month earlier this year, in May — a schedule change that strikes a chord with history.

“May is still considered to be iceberg season in the North Atlantic where the shipwreck of the Titanic lies,” Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions, noted in a news release. Rush is also the CEO and founder of Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate Inc., which has OceanGate Expeditions as its exploration branch.

Almost exactly 111 years ago, the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg during its first voyage, resulting in more than 1,500 deaths. The tragedy sparked one of history’s best-known tales of a disaster at sea — and also sparked interest in underwater shipwreck surveys like the ones organized by OceanGate.

Rush said he and his team were mindful of the potential hazard. “With this in mind, having a capable ship specifically designed for working in the icy Arctic regions is going to be very valuable for our extended crew of scientists, Titanic experts and mission specialists,” he said.

OceanGate Expeditions has signed a charter contract with Horizon Maritime and Miawpukek Horizon Marine Services for the use of the MV Polar Prince, which was previously operated by the Canadian Coast Guard as a light icebreaker known as the Sir Humphrey Gilbert. During most of its 64-year history, the ship cleared ice from harbors and guided other ships through ice-choked marine environments.

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Cosmic Science

Hidden passage discovered within Egypt’s Great Pyramid

Archaeologists have discovered a long-lost passageway within Egypt’s 4,500-year-old Great Pyramid of Giza, thanks to 21st-century technologies including muon tomography and endoscopy.

It’s the latest find made possible with the help of ScanPyramids, an international effort that started documenting Egypt’s best-known archaeological sites with high-tech tools in 2015.

Over the past eight years, ScanPyramids’ team has identified several voids within the Great Pyramid. The passageway described today lies just beneath the pyramid’s north face, about 23 feet (7 meters) above the main entrance. It’s 30 feet (9 meters) long, about 7 feet (2.1 meters) wide, and high enough for a person to stand in.

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OceanGate provides a guided video tour of the Titanic

The latest film about the Titanic doesn’t show Leonardo DiCaprio standing up on the bow’s railings — instead, a single slim filament of coral takes his place as the king of the world.

That’s just one of the scenes from “Titan — A Viewport to Titanic,” a newly released 20-minute video that recaps OceanGate Expeditions‘ dives to the world’s best-known shipwreck in 2021 and 2022.

The film was assembled from high-resolution video captured during a series of dives made by OceanGate’s Titan submersible — a vessel that was designed specifically to take its crews 12,600 feet deep in the North Atlantic Ocean to document the site, year over year.

“Mission specialists, scientists and Titanic experts helped OceanGate Expeditions capture over 50 hours of high-resolution 4K and 8K footage and images of the wreck site,” Stockton Rush, CEO and founder of Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate, said in a news release.

“Titan — A Viewport to Titanic” is narrated by Rory Golden, a veteran Titanic diver and explorer who’s part of the OceanGate team.

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High-def Titanic video reveals previously unseen details

Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate Expeditions set a new standard this year for documenting the condition of the 110-year-old wreck of the Titanic, thanks to a high-definition 8K video system that was installed aboard its submersible.

A sampling of the first-ever 8K video footage from the Titanic, captured during this summer’s dives in the North Atlantic, was released today. OceanGate plans to return to the wreck on an annual basis to track changes in the Titanic’s condition over time, in video resolution that’s roughly 8,000 pixels wide.

“The amazing detail in the 8K footage will help our team of scientists and maritime archaeologists characterize the decay of the Titanic more precisely as we capture new footage in 2023 and beyond,” Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions, said in an emailed statement. “Capturing this 8K footage will allow us to zoom in and still have 4K quality, which is key for large screen and immersive video projects. Even more remarkable are the phenomenal colors in this footage.”

Rory Golden, a veteran Titanic diver who’s part of the OceanGate team, said the video revealed details he hadn’t seen before.

“For example, I had never seen the name of the anchor maker, Noah Hingley & Sons Ltd., on the portside anchor,” Golden said via email. “I’ve been studying the wreck for decades and have completed multiple dives, and I can’t recall seeing any other image showing this level of detail. It is exciting that, after so many years, we may have discovered a new detail that wasn’t as obvious with previous generations of camera technologies.”

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OceanGate updates its view of a tattered Titanic

After his second yearly series of dives to the Titanic, the CEO and founder of Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate says the deterioration of the world’s most famous shipwreck is continuing apace.

“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 told me. “It’s going through its natural consumption by the ocean.”

Rush said the decay is particularly noticeable on the sunken ship’s forward railing. Scientists on the Titanic survey team should be able to get a better fix once they analyze the scaled measurements that were made using a laser scanner attached to OceanGate’s Titan submersible.

Surveying the Titanic’s remains on a yearly basis is one of the prime missions for Titan, which was built to withstand the enormous pressures experienced almost 4,000 meters (12,600 feet) beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean.

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Aviation collection reportedly sold to Walmart heir

Three and a half years after his death, another one of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s passion projects — the extensive collection of aviation and military artifacts that was housed at the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum in Everett, Wash. — has reportedly been sold off by his estate.

Air Current magazine reported late last week that the museum’s entire collection was sold “in its entirety.”

“Many of the projects are being crated for shipment to their new home while the flying aircraft are being readied for cross-country trips,” the magazine said on its Facebook page. “One man’s dream has come to an end, but another man’s dream has just begun.”

The collection’s new owner is Steuart Walton, the grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton, according to Scramble, a publication of the Dutch Aviation Society.

Walton is the co-founder of Runway Group, a holding company with investments in northwest Arkansas; and the co-founder and chairman of Game Composites, a company that designs and builds small composite aircraft.

He serves on the board of directors for Walmart and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, among other organizations, and is a licensed pilot as well as an aircraft collector. His net worth has been estimated at $300 million.

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Scientists plan to analyze DNA at Titanic wreck site

What’s lurking at the Titanic shipwreck site, nearly 13,000 beneath the surface of the North Atlantic? Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate aims to help scientists find out by cataloging the genomic signatures present in the deep ocean.

Researchers will gather up water samples at different depths during a series of dives planned by OceanGate’s Titan submersible this summer, and then analyze the samples to identify the DNA captured within.

The results are expected to give scientists a deeper understanding of deep-ocean biodiversity, and may also shed new light on some of the enduring mysteries surrounding the world’s best-known shipwreck.

“This is groundbreaking deep-sea research,” Steve W. Ross, a research professor affiliated with the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said in a news release. Ross took part in OceanGate Expeditions’ 2021 Titanic survey, and will be chief scientist for this summer’s expedition.

Over the past 110 years, the sinking of the Titanic luxury liner — and the loss of more than 1,500 passengers and crew — have provided the inspiration for countless tragic tales, including an Oscar-winning movie. Over that same time period, the rusting wreck has provided an artificial reef for life at the bottom of the sea.

“This study will give us an entirely different view of this one-of-a-kind habitat while also adding substantially to shared deep-water DNA data sets,” Ross said. “Water samples taken and analyzed using advanced genomics technologies will not only help us identify the lifeforms we can directly observe from the Titan submersible, but also will give us a full picture of the lifeforms we cannot see. This includes invisible signs of both microscopic creatures and larger animals that leave traces of DNA in the water surrounding the Titanic.”

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Cosmic Science

Antarctic team finds iconic wreck of the Endurance

One of the world’s most celebrated shipwrecks — the hulk of the sailing ship Endurance — has been found at a depth of nearly 10,000 feet in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, 107 years after it sank.

The wooden ship carried British explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew to the Southern Ocean in 1915 — but was trapped in pack ice just one day out from their planned landing point. Shackleton’s expedition was marooned, and the ship slowly slipped beneath the ice.

The saga of how Shackleton and his stranded crew set up camp and organized an 800-mile journey in a lifeboat to seek out rescue stands as a heroic example of overcoming Antarctic adversity. All 28 members of Shackleton’s party survived the 497-day ordeal.

More than a century later, the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust organized the Endurance22 expedition to seek out and survey the sunken ship. The team set out last month from Cape Town, South Africa, aboard the icebreaker S.A. Agulhas II for a 35-day mission.

Today the expedition’s organizers announced that they found the ship on March 5 using state-of-the-art autonomous underwater vehicles. It’s sitting on the seafloor about four miles south of the position recorded in 1915 by the Endurance’s captain, Frank Worsley.

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The disappearing bathtub and other Titanic tales

For evidence that the wreck of the Titanic is rapidly deteriorating, you need look no further than Captain Edward Smith’s bathtub. That is, if you can find it.

The case of the disappearing bathtub, as documented by Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate Expeditions, is one of the most vivid indicators showing how fast the world’s most famous shipwreck is settling into the final stages of its decay, more than a century after it hit an iceberg and sank into the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912.

More than 1,500 passengers and crew died in the sinking, but the tale of the Titanic lives on in the annals of maritime history. The rediscovery of the wreck in 1985 grabbed headlines around the world — and James Cameron’s “Titanic” movie burnished the ship’s reputation as a cultural icon.

One of the touchstones of Titanic expeditions has been the bathtub in the doomed captain’s cabin, more than two miles beneath the ocean’s surface. As recently as a decade ago, photos clearly showed the porcelain tub sitting amid rusty ruins. But two years ago, an expedition team reported that the wreck was rapidly deteriorating and cited the state of the captain’s cabin as evidence.

“The most shocking area of deterioration was the starboard side of the officer’s quarters, where the captain’s quarters were,” Titanic historian Parks Stephenson was quoted as saying at the time. “Captain’s bathtub is a favorite image among the Titanic enthusiasts, and that’s now gone.”

So it was a given that OceanGate would try to look at the captain’s quarters this summer when its Titan submersible went on a series of 10 dives. The good news is that the bathtub hasn’t completely gone away.

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OceanGate sub makes its first dive to the Titanic

After years of building, testing and dealing with setbacks, Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate has sent a next-generation submersible and its crew down to the wreck site of the Titanic for the first time.

“We had to overcome tremendous engineering, operational, business [challenges], and finally COVID-19 challenges to get here, and I am so proud of this team and grateful for the support of our many partners,” OceanGate’s founder and CEO, Stockton Rush, said today in a news release.

The first fruits of OceanGate’s 12,500-foot-deep dive in the North Atlantic include photos that show the frame of a stained-glass window and fragments of floor tile from the ocean liner, which hit an iceberg and sank during its maiden voyage from England to New York in 1912.

The loss of the ship and more than 1,500 of the people who were on board — plus the wreck’s rediscovery in 1985 — made the saga of the Titanic one of the history’s best-known sea tragedies.