Trivia

Hard

It’s Estimated The Wreck Of The Titanic Will Vanish Within Decades As A Result Of?

Metal Eating Bacteria
Ocean Acidification
Nearby Magma Vents
Tectonic Movements
Rusticles found on the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 2003.
Lori Johnston/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Answer: Metal Eating Bacteria

Toss anything made of metal into the ocean and eventually the literal and proverbial sands of time will pummel it into pieces, right? When historians and researchers worried about the fate of the massive hull of the RMS Titanic over the last couple of decades, that’s precisely what they worried about: the mechanical actions of the ocean environment coupled with ever advancing rust eventually erasing the historic site.

What they hadn’t anticipated was that the very slow advancement of rust on the hull of the ship would be accelerated by the presence of metal eating bacteria. Discovered by researchers in 2010 while analyzing samples retrieved from the shipwreck in 1991, the gram-negative, halophilic species of proteobacteria, named Halomonas titanicae, is actively consuming the ship. By some estimates, the metal structure of the shipwreck may be completely deteriorated by 2030.

While that’s not so great when we’re talking about preserving a very significant historical shipwreck, there is a silver lining to the discovery. There are plenty of other shipwrecks that aren’t historically significant and just need to be cleaned up. If researchers can cultivate the bacteria and seed it onto existing shipwrecks that require remediation and disposal, it’s possible that rather than investing huge sums of money and risking human lives in the process, we could just bomb the site with metal hungry bacteria and leave them to do their work.

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