Tag Archives: bacteria

Bugs Are Eating the Titanic

22 Mar

titanic1

Everybody knows the story of the ill-fated Titanic; sinking into the Atlantic Ocean on April 15th, 1912, after striking an iceberg. Famed maritime archaeologist Robert Ballard located the wreck on the ocean floor in 1985, and since then, several dives have provided photographic evidence of the Titanic’s condition. Certain expeditions have salvaged artifacts from the wreck, now on display in museums, and others have made attempts to raise the wreck. Unfortunately, it cannot be raised, as it has become too delicate from the deterioration that has occurred in the hundred years since its sinking.

The bow of the Titanic wreck – 2004

However, icebergs, cold waters and great depths will no longer be the only problem facing prospective researchers. A newly-identified bacterial species has colonized the wreck, and there is something quite special about these bugs. Halomonas titanicae, as it is known in the scientific community, likes to eat iron. These bugs are consuming the iron in the Titanic’s hull and main structure at a rapid pace, leaving behind rust as a waste product, and forming things that are known as ‘rusticles’, which disintegrate upon being touched. Rusticles already cover a large proportion of the wreck, and at some stage in the future, most of the Titanic’s main structure and hull will have disappeared, consumed by these hungry bacteria.

Rusticles hanging from the hull of the Titanic wreck – 2003

While it is sad that the famous wreck will one day be gone for good, H. titanicae may actually prove to be useful in some aspects. One day, they could be used to aid in the disposal of old ships and oil-rigs. Furthermore, now that we are aware of their existence, scientists can begin research into the creation of a protective coating that can be applied to ships and underwater pipelines to prevent H. titanicae from doing any damage. Overall, they are a very interesting species, and it makes you wonder what other amazing creatures are lurking in the great ocean depths.

For more information, see “Titanic is being devoured by steel-munching bacteria, say scientists.” Europe Intelligence Wire 6 Dec. 2010. General OneFile. Web. 21 Mar. 2013.

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