WOODS HOLE, Mass. — Researchers descended more than two miles Monday to the floor of the Atlantic and peered at the stern of the Titanic but decided not to send a robot into the wreckage for fear it would become snagged.
Robert Ballard, leader of the expedition, described the stern as "one huge piece with a lot of wreckage around."
The researchers had intended to send Jason Jr., a lawnmower-size robot equipped with a camera, into the stern, but they abandoned that plan because part of the luxury liner was too mangled.
"It was too spooky," said Ballard, speaking in a ship-to-shore telephone hookup from the Atlantis 2 research ship about 400 miles off Newfoundland.
Cites Jagged Openings
Ballard was afraid that the robot's tether would have been snagged on jagged openings, said Shelley Lauzon, a spokeswoman for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Instead, the researchers peered into the stern through video cameras mounted on the submersible Alvin.
Ballard said he found the stern Monday about 600 yards south of the bow section, set upright and buried deep in the seabed. The rudder was seen but not the propeller, he said.
The expedition had hoped to photograph a stern marking emblazoned with the name Southampton, the ship's home port in Britain, but Ballard said the letters had rusted off.
The researchers in the submarine used a mechanical device to install a 20-pound bronze plaque on the stern's poop deck.
The plaque, donated by the Titanic Historical Society of Springfield, Mass., reads:
"In memory of those souls who perished with the Titanic April 14-15, 1912. Dedicated to William H. Tantum IV, whose dream to find the Titanic has been realized by Dr. Robert D. Ballard. The officers and members of the Titanic Historical Society Incorporated, 1986."
Died Before Finding Liner
Tantum died in 1980 before finding the sunken luxury liner. Tantum and Ballard had been officers of Seaonics Inc., formed to organize an expedition to find the vessel.
In the coming days, researchers intend to go deep inside the liner with Jason Jr., Ballard said.