In 1991, the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh, the world's largest oceanographic research vessel, was sent to investigate the RMS Titanic wreckage site. This was a joint project for IMAX Corporation, The Stephen Low Company, the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, and Undersea Research Limited. Manned Russian robotic submersibles Mir I and Mir II were used to descend to the wreck for filming.
Scientists and engineers from Russia, Canada, and the United States also participated in this expedition. Their task was to investigate environmental processes active in the deep ocean and at the wreck site.
Researchers found the wreck environment to be biologically active. Samples were taken from the rusticles, icicle-like formations of rust covering the shipwreck. These rusticles were found to be made of iron compounds and symbiotic microbes including bacteria and fungi. Microbes use the rusting metal as food, producing mineral compounds, which in turn form the rusticles. Rusticles are delicate and fall apart easily into a fine powder when knocked.
Dalhousie scientists Henrietta Mann, Bhavleen Kaur and researchers from the University of Seville, in Spain, investigated samples from rusticles taken from the Titanic. Using DNA technology, they identified a new bacterial species, Halomonas titanicae. This bacterium is of particular interest as part of the cycle of the rusting of submerged metal structures and the release, 'recycling', of iron back into the environment.
Dr. Henrietta Mann is a former Dalhousie University employee and a semi-retired scientist, researcher, and educator. She is the discoverer (along with colleague Dr. Bhavleen Kaur) of a new species of bacteria, Halomonas titanicae which was found in the rusticles of the Titanic. It was chosen as one of the top ten important species described in 2010.
Having participated in many geological conferences, Dr. Mann's ongoing research interests include metal corrosion, biomineralization, gas and oil pipelines, extreme environments, Yellowstone National Park, ground water contamination, and extending the shelf life of compost teas.
Dr. Mann is a member of the Geological Association of Canada, where she was President of the Environmental Section for four years. She is a past member of Micro Earth Environmental Consulting and also a past member of NSERC, where she was a reviewer of applications. Dr. Mann has a Doctorate from the University of Western Ontario (1984).
At this colloquium Dr. Mann presented her research on bacterially induced metal corrosion in the deep sea environment.
The discovery of Halomonas titanicae has garnered attention from news outlets around the world. The following links are just a few of the noteworthy articles published about Dr. Henrietta Mann and the bacterium Halomonas titanicae.
Use the following buttons to view our collection of both colour and black and white pictures of Halomonas titanicae and other microbial activity:
Halomonas titanicae helps recycle structures specifically made of iron. As a civilization, we have been making different tools from iron since the Iron Age. Our machinery, ships, oil platforms, pipelines, aircraft parts, automobile parts, etc. are made of iron, iron components, or steel.
Imagine, if you can, the magnitude of iron-based products made on a yearly basis. The deterioration process of these products which we use in our everyday lives and discard can be greatly expedited by Halomonas titanicae. Thus, by using the bacterium we may be able to greatly reduce the amount of iron based metallic products taking up space in our landfills and polluting the marine environment.
Anything that is made of, or is partly made of, iron and is in a marine environment is susceptible to corrosion, which is partially helped by Halomonas titiancae.
Currently, oil rigs and their mooring chains, oil and gas pipelines, ships, various machinery, etc. are subject to corrosion. This has a negative effect on marine industry because it is costly from an economic stand point to replace components that become unstable due to rust.