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The Quest to Map Titanic

April 12, 2012 via - Woods Hole Oceagraphic Institute

Bill Lange was aboard Knorr in 1985 when the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution research vessel brought back the first grainy black-and-white images of Titanic resting on the seafloor. Ever since, Lange has made it his quest to push the boundaries of imaging technology, engineering one-of-a-kind camera systems and operating them in the deepest and most extreme parts of the world’s oceans.

Lange, who directs the Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory at WHOI, has returned to the Titanic site several times. He played a major role in a 2010 expedition that yielded new, richly detailed views of the ship and wreck site that were published in 2012, the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking.

The original Navy-funded expeditions in 1985 and 1986 used Titanic as a target to test pioneering deep-sea technology. Were camera systems on the list?

Bob Ballard and a few of us had dreams of bringing color video back from the deep, but camera systems to do that didn’t exist at the time. Designing a deep-sea camera system is a lot more than just taking a camera off the shelf and putting it in a pressure-resistant tube. There’s a lot of engineering that goes into making these cameras work efficiently at depths of more than 13,000 feet, withstand pressures of 10,000 pounds per square inch and a range of temperatures from 100°F on deck to near freezing on the seafloor; operate on really low power; and produce high-optical-resolution images in very low light levels. There really isn’t a big market for camera systems like that, so it’s not economical for a commercial vendor to build one.

As it turned out, Titanic has been a great driver for advancing our imaging, lighting, and other technologies in the deep sea. The constant desire of people to know more about Titanic has provided funding and resources to go back to Titanic over the years. It helped drive our desire to keep bringing technology to the next level and improving the imaging capabilities for the scientists and the public.

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Author:Lonny Lippsett
Publisher:Woods Hole Oceagraphic Institute
Citation:Lippsett L, The Quest to Map the Titanic, Oceanus, WHOI, Apr 2012
Date Published:April 12, 2012
External Link:http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=134369
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