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Titanic Explorers Take a Break From '24-Hour' Days

July 20, 1986|From Times Wire Services

WOODS HOLE, Mass. — Researchers who worked around the clock for nearly a week examining the wreck of the Titanic took a break Saturday to study photos of the ship in its 2 1/2-mile-deep watery grave and catch up on repairs.

The explorers planned to perform maintenance on the submarine Alvin, make equipment checks "and give everybody a break," said Sharon Lauzon, a spokeswoman at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, co-sponsor of the expedition. "They've been working 24-hour days since (last) Sunday."

The divers will also process and screen film, which will help in future dives, she said.

With five hours spent descending and ascending in the submarine each day and another five on the bottom about 12,500 feet below the surface, the scientists have gotten little sleep, Lauzon said. "They really need a day to catch up with where they are."

Dive Set for Today

The next dive was tentatively scheduled for today and would be the first in which a Navy deep-submergence pilot will participate, she said. The Navy is a sponsor of the mission.

The Titanic was on its maiden voyage from Britain when it struck an iceberg shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912, sinking early the next morning. The 704 survivors were mainly women and children; 1,513 passengers and crew members died.

On Friday, chief explorer Robert Ballard and scientists released photographs and videotape of the rust-encrusted vessel, focusing on a remarkably well-preserved crystal chandelier and icicle-like rust deposits dotting the luxury liner.

The 3-minute, 10-second color videotape and 12 color slides were taken with a special camera-equipped robot tethered to the research submarine.

'Like Going to a Museum'

Ballard, who led the group that discovered the Titanic's remains in September, 450 miles southeast of Newfoundland, narrated the videotape, which focused on the port side of the ship.

"It's almost like going to a museum," Ballard said after Friday's dive.

The slides taken by researchers and the lawnmower-size robot, Jason Jr., included shots of the bow's hull buried in the seabed, a view down the grand staircase, an anchor hanging at the starboard side of the bow and a look at the tear in the ship where the bow and stern broke apart.

Strong currents and murky water have prevented the exploration of the stern section of the ship's hull.

By July 24--before the start of hurricane season--researchers will wrap up the venture and make the four-day return trip to Woods Hole.

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