THE Titanic rests on the seabed like a collapsed skyscraper surrounded by dozens of lost shoes and unopened champagne bottles.
Stunning new digital scans show the world’s most famous shipwreck in its entirety for the first time in more than a century, preserved in the frigid waters of the Atlantic.
The exceptionally detailed images, captured by remote-controlled submersibles, are the result of over 200 hours of surveying the wreck and the digital stitching together of more than 700,000 images to create a precise 3D reconstruction.
And the results have sparked new claims about why the luxury liner foundered on its maiden voyage to New York in 1912.
The instantly recognizable bow area with anchor and deck rail is remarkably well preserved.
The stern is a twisted mass of metal – the luxurious decks are stacked one on top of the other – created by the ship’s rear penetrating the seabed as it sank.
Statues and ornaments are scattered around the ship and one picture shows a serial number on one of Titanic’s huge propellers.
The grand staircase that took well-heeled guests from the deck to the superb dining room is now a gaping hole.
Beyond the chasm is the Promenade Deck area, where the eight-piece band played as the Titanic slipped slowly beneath the waves.
Now it is hoped that the vivid scans will finally help determine which part of the ship struck the iceberg that caused its sinking.
She sank April 15, 1912, killing 1,517 after sailing into an ice field, and was scuttled below the waterline 400 miles south of Newfoundland.
Only 706 people survived the disaster – although the ship’s 20 lifeboats were only 60 percent full on average.
Many died within minutes after being thrown into the -2°C water.
Titanic researcher Parks Stephenson, 65, believes 3D imaging will “open the door” to studying where the iceberg struck the liner.
He said: “I have a growing body of evidence that the Titanic did not hit the iceberg by her side, as all the films show.
“Maybe she actually landed on the submerged ice shelf. This was the first scenario published by a London magazine in 1912.
“Maybe we haven’t heard the true story of the Titanic.”
For years the Titanic was believed to have sunk in one piece and plans were made to recover her.
But when the wreck was finally discovered 3,800 m (12,500 ft) below the surface in 1985, it was found to have broken in two.
So far, images of the wreck have been frustratingly sparse due to the murky water and pitch black conditions.
Gerhard Seiffert of deep-sea mapping company Magellan, which produced the new images in collaboration with documentary filmmaker Atlantic Productions, said: “The depth of almost 4,000 meters presents a challenge.” There are also currents at the site and we are not allowed to touch anything around the wreck damage.”
Atlantic Productions’ Andrew Geffen said, “Great explorers have been on the Titanic, but they were with really low resolution cameras and they could only speculate as to what happened.”
“We now have every rivet of the Titanic, every detail. We can put it back together so that for the first time we can actually see what happened and use real science to figure out what happened.
“It’s going to take a long time to go through all of these details, but there’s new knowledge literally every week.”
Iron-eating microbes have colonized the ship. In 2006 it was estimated that within 50 years Titanic’s hull would completely collapse leaving only the more durable interior fittings.
The sinking has exercised an enduring fascination for both filmmakers and the public.
The latest images – with their otherworldly atmosphere – will only fuel more intrigue about the doomed passenger liner.
Parks Stephenson added, “There is still much to be learned from the wreck, which is essentially the last surviving eyewitness of the disaster.” She has stories to tell.”