Titanic Damaged by Tourists, Salvagers, Expedition Finds

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Improved technologies employed by a new generation of ROVs allow Ballard and his colleagues to remain underwater longer and to increase horizontal and vertical movement, while studying the Titanic. As a result of the new technologies, sharper and longer live Titanic video imagery can be viewed by millions of television and internet users across the world.

Look But Don't Touch

Using technology unavailable in 1986, Ballard's present team is mapping the bow and stern of the wreck—which separated during its sinking—and the surrounding debris field. By comparing the new data with 1986 data, the researchers will "be able to evaluate what has happened to the ship, and try, from that, to ascertain what has been natural change and what has been human-induced change," Ballard said.

In addition, new imaging technology will allow armchair viewers around the world a front-row seat to the wreck—and discourage Titanic tourism, Ballard hopes.

"We will come into your living room live with incredible high-quality imagery. You will see that you don't have to go down there," Ballard said, referring to an upcoming live broadcast from the wreck. The broadcast will air Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT during the Return to Titanic special on the National Geographic Channel.

Ballard hopes these images will inspire a sort of virtual Titanic exhibition, perhaps a permanent hookup whereby people will be able to view real-time video of the wreck in their living rooms.

Although Ballard is not completely opposed to tourists visiting the Titanic, he advises a look-but-don't-touch policy.

"Come and see the Titanic like you see the Arizona at Pearl Harbor. But don't tear it up, don't land on it, don't run into it," Ballard said. Ballard hopes that, due to broad public interest in the sunken luxury liner, the Titanic preservation movement will act as a springboard to a broader shipwreck-conservation movement. He particularly hopes to safeguard wrecks of the ancient world.

"The deep sea has more than one million ships of antiquity, and that's what we're concerned about. As the Titanic goes, so goes human history beneath the sea. Everyone knows the Titanic," Ballard said. So let's see if we can use the Titanic to save these other ships."

Watch Robert Ballard and his expedition team's live underwater telecast from the Titanic. The one-hour special Return to Titanic airs on Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT only on the National Geographic Channel.

Follow the expedition online through dispatches, photos, and more.

For more news on the Titanic, scroll down.

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