Titanic Rusticles

Roy Cullimore and assistant at the University of Regina conducting research on the Titanic.
University of Regina, Photography Department

Microbiologist Roy Cullimore used his experience gained as part of the 1996 research team that studied the Titanic shipwreck to develop treatment systems for bacteria-contaminated water on the prairies. The former University of Regina professor has applied his practical and theoretical knowledge to help people deal with water contamination through his consulting company, Droycon Bioconcepts Inc. Cullimore’s role in the 1996 research project, supported in part by the Discovery Channel, was to determine the nature of the growths that were developing on the bow section of Titanic, which sank on April 15, 1912, after being struck by an iceberg. The wreck was discovered in 1985 about 500 km off the coast of Newfoundland, 3.5 km below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. The Cullimore team called the growths on the Titanic “rusticles,” and concluded that they were not a single species of a plant or animal but rather a complex of microbial communities living within an iron-rich, calcium-deficient and porous concrete-like home. Rusticles were found to be extracting iron from the steel of the Titanic and then exporting that iron into the oceanic environment as red dust and yellow slimes. Cullimore was subsequently able to “grow” rusticles in a laboratory environment and apply this knowledge to develop patented technology to test for bacteria contaminating prairie water supplies; in partnership with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, he has also developed treatment systems for bacteria-contaminated water.

Joe Ralko