The wreckage of the Titanic is quickly decaying beneath the ocean’s surface as metal-eating bacteria and saltwater corrosion chip away at the sunken luxury ocean-liner, researchers said.

An exploration team with Caladan Oceanic on Wednesday announced their successful expedition to the wreck site of the RMS Titanic, the first manned submersion effort to reach the ship in 14 years.

The crew said they were surprised by the level of rapid deterioration of the ship, which has remained 4,000 meters underwater and hundreds of miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, since the April 1912 crash that killed more than 1,500 people.

ADVERTISEMENT

Researchers reported that metal-eating bacteria, combined with saltwater corrosion and sea currents, have deteriorated large parts of the rusting metal.

Scientist Lori Johnson said in a statement that the condition of the wreck will only continue to worsen as part of a “natural process.”

“These are natural types of bacteria, so the reason that the deterioration process ends up being quite a bit faster, is a group of bacteria, a community working symbiotically to eat, if you will, the iron and the sulphur,” Johnson said.

Parks Stephenson, a Titanic historian, said in a statement that an iconic item from the Titanic wreck was no longer to be found.

“Probably the most shocking area of deterioration was the starboard side of the officer’s quarters, where the captain’s quarters are," Stephenson said. “The captain’s bathtub is a favorite image among Titanic enthusiasts and that’s now gone.”

“That whole deck hole on that side is collapsing taking with it the staterooms, and the deterioration is going to continue advancing,” he added.

The expedition to the Titanic was part of a filming project for a documentary being made by BAFTA and Atlantic Productions.

While at the site, crew members laid a wreath and held a ceremony to honor the victims who died when the once-called “Unsinkable Ship” sunk.