Exploring the deep depths of the Titanic oceanliner

Almost nine decades ago, in the middle of a silent April night, the Titanic collided with an iceberg in the chilly North Atlantic Ocean during her maiden voyage. After the chaos that ensued, the inky abyss of the sea killed more than 1,000 people and ultimately claimed the opulent symbol of the Titanic. Once lively with the clamor of her numerous passengers, the legendary vessel now rests in the silent depths of the Atlantic, where the only signs of life emanate from deep-sea fauna.

Since the Titanic’s re-discovery in 1985, few individuals have had the opportunity to visit the remains of what was once hailed as the most luxurious oceanliner in history.

Dr. Michael Manyak, chairman of GW Hospital’s Department of Urology, took part in an expedition this summer to retrieve artifacts from the ship that lies about 2.5 miles beneath the ocean surface.

RMS Titanic, Inc., the corporation that received permission to salvage the wreck four years ago, contracted Manyak to serve as the leader of the team’s medical department. His duties included registering the coordinates and times when artifacts were recovered during the expedition, which took place in July and August.

Three ships, including a Russian research vessel with two submersible vehicles, were dispatched to the site of the wreck, about 360 miles northeast of St. Johns, Newfoundland.

The expedition faced problems in the primary phases, including an encounter with Hurricane Alberto and malfunctions in one of the expedition ships, but the remainder of the expedition ran smoothly, Manyak said.

Manyak was able to view the Titanic on the 12th dive of an expedition August 17, he said. The submersible vehicles, which hold three people and are equipped with two robotic arms, transported crew members to the ocean floor – a trip that lasted about three hours. Manyak’s first glimpse of the Titanic was of ship fragments resting in the sand.

We started to see debris, Manyak said. There were pipes, we came along the hull and went up the bow.

The group retrieved more than 850 artifacts on the August 17 dive, including a captain’s wheel and a telegraph that connected the bridge and the ship’s engine room. Clothing, hats and shoes were also found, Manyak said.

We even found the base of the cherub statue in the grand staircase, Manyak said. We went right by the captain’s quarters where you could still see his bathtub sitting there. It was really a most spectacular view; it was a most amazing thing.

In addition to recovering artifacts, expedition members conducted studies on oceanic data transmission and telecommunications.

Everything we did was successful, Manyak said. I’m thrilled. It went by so quickly it was amazing.

The curious selection of a urologist as the expedition physician proved advantageous, Manyak said.

We did see about five patients (during the expedition), three of them turned out to be urological in nature – kidney stones, Manyak said.

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