During a series of dives between July 29 and Aug. 4, 2019, the sub was briefly overwhelmed by “intense and highly unpredictable currents,” and “accidental contact was occasionally made with the seafloor and on one occasion the wreck,” according to a report by EYOS Expeditions, which executed the dives.
The sub was “neutrally buoyant (weightless)” at the time and did not have any “abnormal physical signs of damage,” EYOS said, but it is unclear what damage, if any, the Titanic sustained.
“We did accidentally make contact with the Titanic once while we were near the starboard hull breach, a big piece of the hull that sticks out,” expedition leader Rob McCallum told the Telegraph, which was first to report about the incident. “Afterwards we observed a red rust stain on the side of the sub.”
RMS Titanic Inc., an Atlanta-based salvage company that owns the exclusive right to remove artifacts from the wreck, responded angrily in a court filing Tuesday, demanding that video footage of the incident be turned over immediately, “under penalty of perjury.”
That EYOS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for protecting the site and had an observer onboard, “failed to inform RMST and the Court for nearly five months raises a series of troubling issues,” the company said.
EYOS first notified the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia about the incident on Jan. 7.
In a statement Wednesday, NOAA spokesman Brady Phillips rejected the assertion that the federal agency had hidden the incident from the salvage company, pointing out there was an RMST observer onboard the ship for the expedition who “knew of the incident and failed to report it” to RMST.
RMST said in its court filing that when it learned of the incident two weeks ago and asked the RMST observer why he didn’t tell the company about it, he said he believed he couldn’t because of the terms of a confidentiality agreement. It was unclear whom the confidentiality agreement was with.
NOAA’s spokesman said Wednesday that in the current legal battle, RMST is seeking permission from the court to “cut open the hull and extract artifacts from the ship,” which the agency opposes.
Previously, salvagers have been permitted to collect only items from a debris field near the shipwreck, not from inside it.
RMST wants to remove a Marconi wireless telegraph transmitter from a “soundproof room” that has remained untouched for 108 years.
The natural decay of the wreck indicates the ceiling could collapse within a year, forever burying the radio, RMST told the Telegraph. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Feb. 20.
The wireless was used to send distress calls in the early hours of April 15, 1912, after the Titanic hit an iceberg.
At the time, it was state-of-the-art technology, as The Washington Post’s Brittany Shammas previously reported.
“Come at once. We have struck a berg. It’s a CQD [SOS], old man,” the senior wireless operator, Jack Phillips, transmitted to a nearby ship after the collision.
Then: “We are putting passengers off in small boats. Women and children in boats. Cannot last much longer. Losing power.”
The last message was: “Come quick. Engine room nearly full.”
Phillips died on the Titanic along with more than 1,500 others.
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