NOAA's Ocean Explorer Titanic Collection

Expedition Education Module

The "Return to Titanic" expedition presents a unique opportunity to engage explorers of all ages as we journey to a world that few have seen. Nearly 20 years after first finding the sunken remains of the R.M.S. Titanic, marine explorer Robert Ballard returned in June 2004 to help the NOAA study the ship's rapid deterioration.

Dr. Ballard and scientists from NOAA and other institutions spent 11 days at the site, mapping the ship and conducting scientific analyses of its deterioration. The team worked aboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown from May 30 through June 9, 2004, and used remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to conduct a sophisticated documentation of the state of Titanic that was not possible in the 1980s. In addition to mapping the Titanic, expedition goals included the microbial research of scientist Roy Cullimore, who studied the natural deterioration of the ship's hull. Tiny microbes that feed on iron and create icicle-shaped formations known as rusticle are responsible for this deterioration. While rusticles have been observed for many years, little is known about them.

Educators and scientists working with NOAA during May 2004 developed a series of lesson plans for students in Grades 5 – 12 that are specifically tied to the expedition. These lesson plans focus on cutting-edge ocean exploration and research using state-of-the-art technologies. Lessons focus on biodeterioration processes on Titanic, galvanic exchange and deterioration, and how marine archaeologists use historical and archaeological data to draw inferences about shipwrecks.

These essays share more detail and science behind exploring this shipwreck.

Rusticles Thrive on the Titanic

Learn more about tiny microbes at work at the site of the Titanic shipwreck, forming icicle-shaped “rusticles.”

Learn more


 Classroom Resources

Classroom lessons and learning tools relevant to the expedition are listed below by grade level. Although some of these resources may have been developed for past expeditions conducted in other regions of the world ocean, the Focus Questions and Student Learning Objectives are applicable to the current expedition.

Looking for Clues (PDF, 563 KB)

Grade Level: 5-6
Focus: Marine Archaeology of Titanic (Social Studies)

Students will be able to draw inferences about a shipwreck given information on the location and characteristics of artifacts from the wreck.

Galvanic vs. Titanic? (PDF, 574 KB)

Grade Level: 7-8
Focus: Galvanic exchange and deterioration of the Titanic (Physical Science)

Students will be able to describe galvanic exchange and explain how it contributes to deterioration of the Titanic.

What’s Eating Titanic? (PDF, 547 KB)

Grade Level: 9-12
Focus: Biodeterioration processes (Physical Science/Biological Science)

Students will be able to describe three processes that contribute to the deterioration of the wreck of Titanic.


 Ocean Exploration Careers

The Ocean Exploration Careers section of the website invites students to learn about the talented people who explore our ocean planet.