NOAA 2003 Photos

The bow of the Research Vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh shown at a berth in the port of St. John's Newfoundland, Canada. Keldysh served as the primary vessel in the 2003 Expedition and housed the MIR submersibles for a majority of their career.

St. John's is the launching point for many expeditions to Titanic, as it is the closest harbor to the wreck site.

Expedition Crew Members

From left to right:
Dr. Anatoly Sagalevich (Shirshov Institute), Craig McLean (NOAA), Jeremy Weirich (NOAA), Larry Murphy (NPS), Dr. Roy Cullimore (Microbiologist)

MIR Submersible in the background.

MIR submersible designer Dr. Anatoly Sgalevich and expedition chief scientist Dr. Yuri Bogdanov on board the Keldysh.

Dr. Anatoly Sagalevich peers into the hatch of one of the MIR submersibles as he prepares to enter before a dive.

Prior to closing the hatch, a technician inspects the O-Ring pressure seal for any defects. This O-Ring sits between the hatch and the titanium sphere that it provides access to and prevents water from leaking into the submersible at depth. The smallest defect in this seal could be disastrous.

The Keldysh's on board crane lifts MIR-1 over the side during launch procedures. In the foreground, two crew members help keep the submersible stable during the deployment.

After splashing down in the Atlantic, MIR-1 is unhooked from the crane. The crew members assigned to this duty are lovingly known by the crew as the MIR cowboys, a name which refers to their remarkable ability to stay on top of the submersibles in heavy seas. After the submersible is unhooked, the crew member will jump back into the RHIB seen at the submersible's side and be taken back on board Keldysh.

The work boat Koresh is deployed during the MIR launch process as well. Once the MIR's are over the side, Koresh assists in towing the submersibles to the point at which they begin their descent as well as other tasks which must be completed before leaving the surface. During recovery, Koresh also tows the submersibles within range of the Keldysh's crane.

From left to right -
Craig McLean (NOAA), Viktor Nischeta (MIR-2 Pilot), and Dr. George Bass (Institute for Nautical Archaeology) inside the cockpit of MIR-2 as they prepare to conduct a photomosaic of Titanic's wreck.

As MIR-1 begins it's 2 hour descent to the sea floor, Dr. Roy Cullimore looks through the 9 inch thick porthole that will be his only view into the outside world for the rest of the dive. An average dive to Titanic's wreck site can last as long as 14 hours. On this dive, the submersibles would be in the water for over 9 hours with 6 hours spent on the bottom.

MIR-1 hovers over Titanic's boat deck, photo taken from inside MIR-2.

A favorite image among Titanic enthusiasts, Captain Smith's bathtub was not visible when the wreck was first discovered in 1985. Only after the sagging walls of the captains quarters collapsed onto the boat deck was this iconic location able to be photographed in such clarity.

Dives in 2019 have revealed that the bathtub is sadly far less visible now, as the roof of the Captains Quarters have collapsed on top of it. These reports were somewhat overblown by the media however, who reported that the tub was completely gone. Perhaps someday in the not so distant future, the ceiling debris will clear enough for the tub to be visible again.

Note the presence of the tap handles - there are four of them to provide hot saltwater, hot freshwater, and cold options for both.

One of the primary goals of the 2003 expedition was to analyze rusticle growth to determine the rate at which the ship is deteriorating. This photo, snapped just below one of the ships massive bow anchors shows long strands of rusticle hanging from the bottom of the anchor. There are also piles of rusticles that have fallen to the sea floor from above, either as a result of currents, propwash from submersibles, or marine life bumping into them.

A maturing rusticle shows signs of secondary growth (note the hair like structures beginning to form). Rusticles are formations created by the iron eating bacteria known as Halomonas Titanicae. The rusticles themselves are extremely fragile, able to be destroyed by little more than the propwash from a submersible's thruster. The bacteria and fungi inside the structures use rusting metal as a source of food and produce a structure similar to an icicle using waste product from this process. Rusticles have been observed to be complex structures, with rings forming similar to how trees form internal rings. Rusticles are also somewhat hollow, with a central channel allowing water to flow through the structure.

Titanic's A-Deck Promenade windows. While the glass in these windows is not in place (Either blown out by pressure during the sinking, shattered in the impact with the bottom or fallen in) the frames can offer some insight into how these windows were operated. Visible in this photo is a geared track. These windows could be opened, and a crank handle would have allowed them to be raised or lowered with the assistance of this brass track.

Dr. Lori Johnston (Microbiologist) observes rusticles at Titanic's wreck during the 2003 expedition. Her observations and analysis can be found in our additional resources section under articles.

Read about Dr. Lori Johnston's Observations

Craig McLean points to an object of interest on a video monitor showing a live feed of the outboard camera during a dive to the wreck.

While the MIR's are on the bottom, the navigation center continuously monitors and charts their positions.

After nine hours in the water, the MIR's have surfaced. The Koresh tows them alongside Keldysh one at a time. The MIR cowboys attach a line to the top of the submersible from the recovery crane, and the submersible is moved into position to be pulled out of the water.

A group of observers on Deck 6 of the Keldysh observe a night recovery. In the background the recovery crane is visible swung out over the side of the ship.

From left to right - Larry Murphy, Lori Johnston, David Concannon

One of the MIR's is hauled out of the water and allowed to drain, Koresh observes in the background.

Craig McLean emerges from MIR-2 and slips on his shoes. Shoes are not allowed to be worn inside the submersibles during a dive.