The hull of the famous RMS Titanic, which sunk in April 1912, is harbouring a lot more than the ship’s tragic history – rusticles growing upon the ship are home to a brand-new bacterial species which is contributing to its demise.
Hidden microscopic life aboard Titanic; rusticles on the wreck of the hull Credit RMS Titanic Inc.
Researchers from Dalhousie University in Canada and the University of Sevilla in Spain have isolated a bacterium – which they’ve named Halomonas titanicae – in the rusticles collected from the Titanic 3.8km below the ocean surface.
They believe the bacteria works in conjunction with other bacteria to speed up the corrosion of the metal. The team tested the rusting ability of the bacterium and found it was able to adhere to steel surfaces, creating knob-like mounds of corrosion products. A similar bacterial corrosive process is thought to be responsible for the formation of the rusty icicles.
“We believe H. Titanicae plays a part in the recycling of iron structures at certain depths,” said lead researchers Dr Bhavleen Kaur and Dr Henrietta Mann, “This could be useful in the dispoal of old naval and merchant ships and oil rigs that have been cleaned of toxins and oil-based products and then sunk in the deep ocean.”
The researchers say that they are unsure whether the species arrived aboard the Titanic before or after it sank, or whether they will cause similar damage to offshore oil and gas pipelines.
“Finding answers to these questions will not only better our understanding of our oceans, but may also equip us to devise coatings that can prevent similar deterioration to other structures.