The wreck of the Titanic was struck by a submarine hired by a British adventure company, but the US Government kept the incident a secret, according to a report.
The Titanic’s remains were hit by the $52 million Triton when “intense and highly unpredictable currents” caused the operator to lose control, the expedition leader admitted on Tuesday, according to the UK’s Telegraph and The New York Post.
Organised by EYOS Expeditions, based in the Isle of Man, the July trip was accompanied by scientists from Newcastle University and carried the submersible to the ship’s resting place more than 3800m below the North Atlantic surface.
On its return, the expedition revealed that Titanic Captain Edward John Smith’s bathtub had disappeared inside the deteriorating remains.
The Titanic hit an iceberg at 11.40pm (ship’s time) on April 14, 1912 on its maiden journey. It sank about two hours later, with the loss of all but 706 of the 2223 people on-board.
Expedition leader Rob McCallum confirmed there had been “contact” with the Titanic because of strong currents but insisted that any damage could only have been minor.
“We tried to keep away from the Titanic but we had to go close to deposit two science samples,” he told the Telegraph, which examined legal papers in the case.
“We did accidentally make contact with the Titanic once while we were near the starboard hull breach, a big piece of the hull that sticks out. Afterwards we observed a red rust stain on the side of the sub,” he said.
“But the submersible is covered in white fibreglass and is very delicate and expensive. While underwater it’s essentially weightless, it’s not a battering ram.”
The claims emerged ahead of a landmark court battle set to decide the future of the tragic ocean liner.
A major US salvage company called RMS Titanic Inc. will ask a judge next month for permission to retrieve artefacts from inside the rusting wreck, which was discovered in 1985, including a Marconi wireless system known as the “voice of Titanic”.
The company is the only entity legally allowed to remove items from the site, but its plans are strongly opposed by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is responsible for protecting deep-sea wrecks.
In papers filed at the District Court of Eastern Virginia, RMS Titanic Inc. alleges the NOAA knew the sub struck the Titanic, but officials monitoring the dive failed to inform the court even though an agency observer was aboard the expedition ship.
RMS Titanic Inc. says the EYOS Expeditions taking more than five months to admit the accident in an official report on January 8 “raises a series of troubling issues” – and has demanded that EYOS produce footage of the collision on “penalty of perjury”.
An NOAA spokesperson told the Telegraph the agency “takes its role in protecting the Titanic wreck and wreck site from disturbance very seriously”.
“NOAA first learned of EYOS’ accidental contact with the sea floor and on one occasion the Titanic through EYOS’ report,” it continued.
“After NOAA completed its review of the EYOS report, NOAA reminded EYOS legal counsel of EYOS’ obligation to provide a copy of the report to the court and RMST, which EYOS did on January 8, 2020,” the rep added.
The first hearing in the case is expected to take place on February 20.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission