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Facts about the expedition

Dr. Robert D. Ballard boarded the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research ship Ronald H. Brown on May 26, 2004 to return to the wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic. The expedition is expected to arrive at the site in early June.

The ship is commanded and managed by the scientists and engineers of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.


The Equipment

Under the direction of Dr. Ballard, the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (MAIFE) recently developed a unique new collection of underwater vehicles dedicated to marine archaeology surveying. Three robots, named Argus, Little Hercules (Little Herc) and Hercules will be used to survey the wreck of the Titanic.

Argus is the “tow sled” that hangs on a cable connected to the ship to maneuver the Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs).

Little Herc is the ROV that gathers underwater video and artifacts from the Titanic. It is an unmanned vehicle, but its cameras allow the pilot aboard the ship to visit the wreck as though the pilot were there.

Hercules is the other ROV that is anchored to the ocean floor. Using an underwater manipulator arm, Hercules excavates and transmits images back from the site.

The Expedition Team

There are 32 members of the expedition team, including six engineers to operate to the ROVs; three video and satellite experts; four scientists and archaeologists; four NOAA engineers; and several members of the JASON Foundation for Education, the National Geographic Society and a film crew from the National Geographic Channel.

The Partnership

The “Return to Titanic” expedition is the result of a partnership between the National Geographic Society, MAIFE, the JASON Foundation for Education, NOAA Office of Exploration, the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, and the National Geographic Channel. These partners will transport the expedition to the site, provide vital expertise needed to explore the wreck and document its progress.
Once the team is on-site, the JASON Foundation and the MAIFE Immersion Project both will allow local communities to interact with the expedition and preview the filming of this extraordinary documentary at numerous “telepresence” sites across the country. One such site, the URI Narragansett Bay Campus will feature Titanic Live! broadcasts.

Site Preservation and Protection

The Titanic has deteriorated to the point where it is necessary to study why and how that deterioration has occurred. One outcome of the “Return to Titanic” mission may be to identify strategies to preserve and protect the site for future generations.

Images of the wreck will be transmitted to scientists worldwide. These scientists will compare the images from this expedition with previous expeditions to determine the level of deterioration that has occurred over the last 19 years.

The United Kingdom recently signed an international agreement to protect the wreck of the Titanic as a memorial to those who died when the ship sank in 1912. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada are the four nations most connected with the wreck. Titanic flew the British flag. She sailed from Southampton via Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland. The wreck lies in international waters 325 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, in the Atlantic Ocean. When two or more of those parties sign the agreement, it will be effective.
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