The first-ever full-sized digital replica of the Titanic has been created – and experts say it could be used to unlock secrets of the world’s most famous shipwreck.
Scientists have created what they have labelled a “digital twin” of the passenger liner, which sank into the Atlantic in 1912 after hitting an iceberg while on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
About 1,500 people died in the sinking – which remains one of the biggest shipping disasters in world history.
The digital twin of the shipwreck was created using deep-sea mapping of the real Titanic, which lies 3,800m (12,500ft) down in the Atlantic.
It is so detailed that even the serial number on the blade of one of the ship’s propellers can be made out in the 3D images.
And experts believe the digital replica could be used by scientists to work out new details about how the passenger liner sank.
Parks Stephenson, a Titanic expert who has studied the ship for the last 20 years, described the project as a “true game-changer”.
“What we are seeing for the first time is an accurate and true depiction of the entire wreck and debris site,” he said.
“I’m seeing details that none of us have ever seen before and this allows me to build upon everything that we have learned to date and see the wreck in a new light.
“We’ve got actual data that engineers can take to examine the true mechanics behind the breakup and the sinking and thereby get even closer to the true story of the Titanic disaster.
“For the next generation of Titanic exploration, research and analysis, this is the beginning of a new chapter.”
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The digital twin was created by deepwater specialists Magellan using more than 715,000 images and full 4k video footage of the wreck, which were taken using two submersibles – named Romeo and Juliet.
The submersibles mapped every millimetre of the wreck – which split into two parts as it sank – in minute detail. They also mapped a three-mile debris field surrounding the wreck.
Previous optical images of the ship have been limited by the low light levels and the often poor water quality around the wreckage.
Titanic ‘as never seen before’
Magellan’s Gerhard Seiffert, who led the planning for the expedition, said the company’s digital twin provides a “highly accurate photorealistic 3D model” of the wreck.
“This model will allow people to zoom out and to look at the entire thing for the first time,” he said.
“So, by capturing this 3D model, what we’re able to do is visualize the wreck in a completely new way, there’s all kinds of amazing small little details that you can see.
“This is the Titanic as no one had ever seen it before.”
Richard Parkinson, founder of Magellan, described the results of his team’s project as “astonishing”.
“Over the course of the Titanic project the volume of data that we acquired was enormous – around 7150,000 images and some 16 terabytes of data,” he said.
“We believe that this data is approximately ten times larger than any underwater 3D model that’s ever been attempted before.”