THE sinking of the Titanic is one of the 20th century's great dramas, a mystery that has confounded scientists and historians for decades.
There is still an aura of mysticism that remains around that fateful ship and new photos to be published next month provide for the first time a sense of what the wreck looks like today.
These new photographs, which will appear in the April 2012 edition of National Geographic magazine, were shot using state-of-the-art technology by independent research group Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, provide a greater understanding of what happened on that fateful April 15, 1912.
They are the by-product of a multi-million dollar, two-month expedition that used a number of different approaches to get never-before-seen views of the wrecked ship.
For much of August and September 2010, explorers from the Woods Hole Oceanic Institution used robotic vehicles to collect images during programmed sweeps of the surrounding areas.
Side-scan and multibeam sonar was used to store the minute details of the ship and to evaluate what has changed since previous exploratory expeditions.
During these sweeps, the robots stored 'ribbons' of data, with the products of the repeated attempts then collected together and observed as a whole unit.
The process, which is referred to as 'mowing the lawn', worked over the entire area of the ship and the surrounding seabed.
In total, the area in question measures three miles by five miles.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been studying the wreck for decades, and one of their lead archaeologists spoke toThe National Geographic to explain the significance of the technology used to capture these images.
'This is a game-changer,' James Delgado told the magazine.
'In the past, trying to understand Titanic was like trying to understand Manhattan at midnight in a rainstorm—with a flashlight.
'Now we have a site that can be understood and measured, with definite things to tell us. In years to come this historic map may give voice to those people who were silenced, seemingly forever, when the cold water closed over them.'
The Titanic wreck has been one of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's most significant projects, with one of the groups' members having been a part of the original exhibition that discovered it back in 1985.
The discovery of the wreck, by WHOI, sparked an international interest in deep sea exploration.
Towed sled vehicles were created to explore the sea floor. Now robotic vehicles controlled remotely and either connected to the main expedition vehicle by a tether or completely autonomous are used to gather information very close to the ship and even inside it
What is truly original about the latest batch of photographs from the site is that it allows interested viewers to gain a better contextualized understanding of where the different pieces of the wreck come in together, which piece was once part of another.
The side views of the two main parts of the ship are particularly telling because the images speak volumes about the speed at which they crashed into the ocean floor.
The bow, or the front half of the ship, was the first to fall into the ocean depths. After being pierced repeatedly by the edge of the iceberg- some holes of which are still visible today in the top photo- the bow then plummeted to the ocean floor.
Because the front of the ship was designed to have a shape that allowed for smooth sea travel, the bow streamed nose first into the bed of the ocean.
That was not the case for the stern, or back end, of the ship.
Since the Titanic had snapped in half, the lower portion of the stern was the breaking point and water filled the ship from there.
What that meant was that when the stern proceeded to sink to the ocean floor, that descent was much more dramatic. Entire floors collapsed, water smashed the internal structure of the ship as it descended at a rapid pace.
The fast speed and incomparable power of the water essentially had a 'corkscrew' effect on the ship as it mangled the steel so that it no longer even looks like the ship it once was.
Immortalized in films and brought to life with exhibits throughout the world featuring artefacts from the cabins that now lay 12,415 feet below sea level, the ship is undoubtedly one of the most famous in history.
The story of the disaster is well known: the ship left Southampton, England on its maiden voyage bound for New York.
With the intention of providing the world's wealthy with an opulent trip, there were black tie dinners in the formal dining room, strolls along the promenade, and health treatments in the extravagant Turkish baths.
In spite of the spoils that the ships' creators spent on the decoration within, the technology was not effective enough at the time to avoid an iceberg.