The discovery of two large pieces of the Titanic's hull on the ocean floor has changed the story of its final minutes, indicating the ocean liner's end was more quick and terrifying than previously thought, underwater researchers said yesterday.
The hull pieces were a crucial part of the ship's structure and make up a bottom section that was missing when the wreck was first located in 1985, they said.
After these key sections of the hull broke free, the bow and stern spilt, said Roger Long, a naval architect who analyzed the find. The stern, which was still buoyant and filled with survivors, likely plunged toward the ocean floor about five minutes later, giving passengers less time to escape than widely believed.
"It would have been immediately terrifying," he said. "The breakup determined whether a lot of people lived or died."
Researchers previously believed the ship broke in just two major pieces, the bow and stern, which was how the sinking was depicted in the 1997 film version of the catastrophe. David Brown, a &to=http://english.pravda.ru/main/2002/04/24/27954.html' target=_blank>Titanic historian, had estimated prior to the find that the stern took 20 minutes to slide into the water, based on how quickly it would have filled with water.
"It turns out the Titanic was more merciful. It was over more quickly," Brown said, reports Berkshire Eagle.
The sections, both about 40 feet by 90 feet, were once a single section and were found in good condition, with red bottom paint still visible. The missing sections had been believed to have fragmented into hundreds of small pieces.
"The breakup and sinking of the Titanic has never been accurately depicted," said Parks Stephenson, a Titanic historian who took part in Monday's conference.