The Virtual Dive of the Titanic on the Discovery Channel Site allows viewers to explore the technology surrounding the dive down to the Titanic ruins. It is a good tool with a lot of information, but doesn’t give much background on the Titanic or allow you to explore the wreck itself.
The introduction allows you to explore each vessel used in the dive process. By clicking on the ship, the floats, and the Mir diving pods, the user can learn more information on each. Then you are ready to proceed to the dive.
You fill the sub’s ballast tanks to add weight to the Mir 1 and Mir 2 in order to dive. The dive is in the perspective of the Mir 2, looking out over the Mir 1. The virtual tour allows you to explore the fiber optic cable that attaches the subs to the ship. It event provides a diagram that compares the width of the cable to a pencil eraser. Next, you have to engage the sub’s thrusters to begin a slow corkscrew descent (100 feet-per-minute to the sea bottom). The view from the portal is now completely dark as we are now virtually 800 feet below the surface. The external lights are off in order to conserve battery power. On the side, we see our depth in relation to the Empire State Building (40th floor). We continue to dive by using the thrusters until we reach 3,000 feet (over two Empire State Buildings). The dialog on the bottom of the screen tells us that the cabin temperature is 54 degrees. Finally, we reach the bottom at 12,600 feet (10 empire state buildings) after two hours and the external lights are turned on to explore the wreck. We can now read about the wreck or the safety concerns of the fiber optic cable.
The wreck information is incredibly extensive. It is focused on the wreckage itself, with only one sentence introduction about the voyage and sinking. I didn’t know that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have reported the wreck will most likely collapse within the next 50 years. It also discusses the guidelines they released in 2001 for research, exploration and salvage of the ship to preserve the wreckage as long as possible (which are not legally enforceable).
Next, the information reveals more about the corrosion and deterioration of the wreck including scientific reasoning for deterioration and how humans have interacted with the wreck, what they’ve left behind and what they’ve removed.
You deploy the X-bot rover (which you see through the small portal window) and can control it using a joystick on the screen. The pilots relay on historical experts and computerized 3-D model of Titanic to guide. However, you only get one view of the wreck. There is no ability to look at different parts of the ship.
The Virtual Dive tool was initially created in 2005 in anticipation of the live broadcast of images from a live dive that year. It is a very informative learning tool and easy to use. However, I think it would have been served with a little more flexibility in the exploration of the ship and more images of the wreck itself. I can see how this keeps the focus on the technology used for the dive, but it ended up being disappointing because there was really no point to giving the user control over the pod when there is only one view you can see. Taking the viewer step by step on how the technology is used is definitely beneficial. Especially to young learners.