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OceanGate photographed Titanic’s iconic bow in 2021, at left, and in 2022. (OceanGate Expeditions Photos)

After his second yearly series of dives to the Titanic, the CEO and founder of Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate says the deterioration of the world’s most famous shipwreck is continuing apace.

“We’ll have some better data next year, but it definitely is in worse condition this year than it was last,” OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush told GeekWire. “It’s going through its natural consumption by the ocean.”

Rush said the decay is particularly noticeable on the sunken ship’s forward railing. Scientists on the Titanic survey team should be able to get a better fix once they analyze the scaled measurements that were made using a laser scanner attached to OceanGate’s Titan submersible.

Surveying the Titanic’s remains on a yearly basis is one of the prime missions for Titan, which was built to withstand the enormous pressures experienced almost 4,000 meters (12,600 feet) beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Marine archaeologists say we may be nearing the end of the Titanic’s saga, which began with its fatal first voyage in 1912 and continued with its rediscovery in 1985. Recent surveys have documented how the once-mighty luxury liner is turning into a rusty ruin. Studying year-by-year changes can shed light on the factors behind the accelerating deterioration.

Another prime objective is to categorize the deep-sea habitat surrounding the ship. Rush expects to see some significant biological discoveries come out of this year’s Titanic survey.

“We have researchers at the University of Edinburgh, the University of North Carolina looking at the video as we speak, to look at both the density of the species and then the types,” Rush said. “I thoroughly suspect that they will find species they can’t specifically identify. It’s a challenge to know if they’re new species unless you get the DNA.”

Fortunately, OceanGate Expeditions is partnering with a Canadian company called eDNAtec to collect and analyze samples of water at the ocean floor as well as at other levels of the sea, looking for traces of environmental DNA. The results could help scientists determine which kinds of species left behind their genetic signatures — including previously unknown species.

Rush said it’s likely to take at least three months to finish the DNA analysis.

OceanGate’s team members and outside researchers weren’t the only ones to take trips to the Titanic: The company brought along a total of 21 mission specialists who paid as much as $250,000 to be part of the adventure.

Among those mission specialists were two spacefliers who previously rode Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket ship — Evan Dick and Dylan Taylor — as well as planetary scientist Alan Stern, who heads up NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt and is scheduled to take his own suborbital spaceflight.

“It really does seem unreal that we visited the Titanic, sometimes being as close as just a foot or so from the ship,” Stern wrote in a blog post.

Other mission specialists included artists from Canada’s First Nations, plus a self-described “Titanic nut” who won a contest sponsored by Make-A-Wish Canada.

Rush, who served as the submersible’s pilot, said that OceanGate and its partners at Horizon Maritime got in eight dives over the course of a research season that ran from mid-June to late July. Teams shuttled back and forth between St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the Titanic wreck site, about 370 miles away.

During last year’s expedition, OceanGate faced a host of technical problems. “This year, our challenges were much more related to the weather and operational challenges, new team members, new procedures and the like,” Rush said. “Things are getting smoother. I wouldn’t say easier, but it was more predictable.”

Rush and his teammates are already thinking about the 2023 expedition. “We’re looking to do the mission a little earlier — we’ll start in mid-May and be done by the end of June,” he said. “And we’re going to have a different ship, so there’s a lot of work we have to do to qualify that ship and get it ready.”

He’s also looking for targets beyond the Titanic. “We might do something in the Azores,” Rush said. “That would be very interesting. I’ve always wanted to do hydrothermal vents.”

Here are some of this year’s Titanic highlights on Twitter:

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