Titanic controversy: Sub used in underwater expedition hit famous wreck, say court documents

A submarine used to explore the Titanic hit the famous wreck last year, according to court documents.

Documents filed in a long-running federal court battle in Virginia say that the Triton submarine operated by EYOS Expeditions made contact with the wreck six months ago, according to The Washington Post.

Titanic hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. ship's time on April 14, 1912, and sank just over two hours later with the loss of more than 1,500 lives. The wreck, which is lying on seabed at a depth of 12.467 feet, is approximately 350 miles south of Newfoundland.

NEW TITANIC IMAGES SHOW THE WRECK’S 'SHOCKING' DETERIORATION

In a statement emailed to Fox News, EYOS Expeditions explained that the two-person sub made five dives to the Titanic in August 2019. “The expedition’s primary purpose was scientific. Objectives included deploying new science sampling devices, collecting sample devices that had been placed in 2005, and to film the entire wreck in high definition,” it said. “These were undertaken to better understand how the wreck of the RMS Titanic is progressing through the passage of time.”

The Titanic leaving Southampton April 10, 1912.

The Titanic leaving Southampton April 10, 1912. (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The Washington Post reports that EYOS notified the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia about the incident in early January.

“At the completion of one of the five dives a small red mark was noticed on one side of the submersible, suggesting that it had made contact with the wreck,” explained EYOS, in the statement emailed to Fox News. “There was no damage or scratches to the structure or paintwork on the fibreglass shell of the submersible and no impact was felt at the time. This indicates the contact was very slight, most likely brushing a ‘rusticle’ rather than the wreck itself. The contact probably occurred when the submersible was collecting rusticle samples for the science program.”

DID THIS ICEBERG SINK THE TITANIC?

Rusticles are described as being “long stalactite structures” of rust flakes. Extremely fragile, they turn to dust when touched. “The contact was not a ‘crash’ as has been misreported,” added EYOS.

A file image showing the deterioration of the Titanic wreck.

A file image showing the deterioration of the Titanic wreck. (Atlantic Productions)

Salvage company RMS Titanic, which owns the exclusive rights to remove artifacts from the Titanic, demanded in a court filing that video footage of the incident be turned over, according to the Post.

RMS Titanic alleges that EYOS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is responsible for protecting the wreck site, did not inform the court or the salvage company for almost five months.

TITANIC VICTIM’S LONG-LOST LETTER SURFACES, DESCRIBES NEAR MISS AS DOOMED SHIP SET OUT ON ITS MAIDEN VOYAGE

NOAA responded to the allegation in a statement emailed to Fox News. “According to RMST's January 27, 2020, report to the Court, the RMST representative on board the EYOS expedition vessel knew of the incident and failed to report it to the NOAA representative, RMST, or the Court,” it said. “NOAA, including its representative on board the EYOS expedition vessel, first learned of EYOS’ accidental contact with the seafloor and on one occasion the Titanic through EYOS’ report.”

The Titanic (right) and the SS City of New York come "within an ace" of colliding with each other at Southampton as Titanic departed on its ill-fated maiden voyage, April 10, 1912.

The Titanic (right) and the SS City of New York come "within an ace" of colliding with each other at Southampton as Titanic departed on its ill-fated maiden voyage, April 10, 1912. (Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

“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,” NOAA added.

EYOS says that the “potential contact” with the wreck was immediately reported to observers from NOAA and RMST who were onboard the expedition vessel. “A full report was sent to NOAA upon completion of the expedition as was a condition of permissions to dive the wreck. It was not, as has been misreported, withheld or delayed,” it said, in its statement.

TRAGIC TITANIC LETTER SELLS FOR $166G AT AUCTION

Fox News has reached out to RMS Titanic with a request for comment on this article.

April 14, 1912: Survivors watch from the lifeboats as the ill-fated White Star liner, the Titanic, plunges beneath the waves. Original Publication: Illustrated London News.

April 14, 1912: Survivors watch from the lifeboats as the ill-fated White Star liner, the Titanic, plunges beneath the waves. Original Publication: Illustrated London News. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The wreck site looks set to be an ongoing source of controversy. Now RMS Titanic wants to recover the Marconi wireless set that the famous liner used for communication, according to recent court filings cited by the Maritime Executive website.

EYOS has voiced its concern over RMS Titanic’s plans. “I am alarmed by the plans of RMST who are seeking permission to breach the hull to remove further items for commercial gain,” said EYOS Expedition Leader Rob McCallum, in the statement emailed to Fox News. “They have already removed thousands of items from the debris field around the wreck and are now seeking to enter the wreck itself to take more.”

INCREDIBLE TITANIC TALE: SILVER FLASK WAS DAMAGED IN THE SHIP’S DEATH THROES, REUNITED WITH ITS OWNER

Last year’s expedition to the Titanic revealed the ill-fated liner’s deterioration on the North Atlantic seabed.

RMS Titanic passenger liner of the White Star Line. From The Story of 25 Eventful Years in Pictures, published 1935.

RMS Titanic passenger liner of the White Star Line. From The Story of 25 Eventful Years in Pictures, published 1935. (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Eerie footage of the dive obtained by the BBC showed the Titanic’s rusting bow and parts of the ship’s wrecked hull. Despite the wreck’s rapidly deteriorating state, glass can still be seen in some of the Titanic’s portholes.

TITANIC MENU SURFACES, OFFERS GLIMPSE INTO DOOMED LINER'S FINAL DAYS

More than 100 years after the Titanic’s sinking, the disaster continues to be a source of fascination. In 2017, a sea-stained letter recovered from the body of a Titanic victim was sold at auction for $166,000.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The sextant used by the captain of the rescue ship Carpathia sold for just under $97,000 in 2016. A cup presented by Titanic survivor Molly Brown to the Carpathia captain sold for $200,000 in 2015.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers