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Review: Rusticle Formation on the RMS Titanic and the Potential Influence of Oceanography

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Journal of Maritime Archaeology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Meter length iron-rich rusticles on the RMS Titanic contain bacteria that reportedly mobilize iron from the ship structure at a rate that will reduce the wreck to rust in decades. Other sunken ships, such as the World War II shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) are also similarly covered. However, at the GOM sites, rusticles are only centimeters in length. Minimal differences in water temperature (a few °C) between the two sites and comparable exposure times from wreckage to discovery cannot rationalize the extreme differences in rusticle length. One possible explanation for the observed difference in rusticle size is the differing amounts of dissolved or colloidal iron at the two locations.

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Efforts funded through NRL Base Program, Program Element 0601153N. NRL publication number NRL/JA/7305-15-2675. The authors would like to thank Dr. Alan Shiller of the University of Southern Mississippi, Marine Science Department for his insightful commentary and Ms. Stephanie Anderson of the Naval Research Laboratory, Oceanography Division for her help with MATLAB in creating the world coastline plot.

Author Contributions

Paper was co-authored by Maxsimo Salazar, LCDR U.S. Navy, and Brenda Little, Naval Research Laboratory. LCDR Salazar contributed sections related to oceanography and environmental sources of dissolved and particulate iron at the Titanic wreck site. LCDR Salazar prepared the figure included in the paper. Dr. Little contributed sections on mechanisms for accumulating environmental iron.

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Correspondence to Maxsimo Salazar.

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Salazar, M., Little, B. Review: Rusticle Formation on the RMS Titanic and the Potential Influence of Oceanography. J Mari Arch 12, 25–32 (2017).

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