The stricken Costa Concordia cruise liner might soon collapse under its own weight.
A video produced by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has revealed that the rocks on which the ship sits have now started crumbling dramatically.
The ROV video was shot on Feb. 11, nearly a month after the ship ran aground the Tuscan coast of Giglio, Italy, killing 17 people and leaving 15 missing.
The devastating disaster at sea will be analyzed through exclusive footage on Discovery Channel's Cruise Ship Disaster: Inside the Concordia, which airs on Sunday February 19 at 10pm E/P.
Although experts reassure that "no anomalies" are reported by the close monitoring of the hull and that the de-fueling operations run smoothly, with over 900 cubic meters of fuel pumped out so far, underwater images of the capsized ship appear to tell a different story.
Three dimensional images realized by a sophisticated multi-beam sonar and laser technologies which can be used at depths of 1500 feet, revealed that the 950 foot-long, 116 foot-wide, 114,500-ton ship precariously sits on two pieces of rock.
"The Concordia doesn't rest on a relatively flat rock platform. On the contrary, the bow and stern sit on two rocks, one larger and the other smaller. In between there is sloping sand which degrades by 20 percent toward deep sea," Andrea Faccioli, sales manager at Codevintec, the highly specialized company which produced the 3D images, told Discovery News.
Further investigation, carried by the ROV two weeks later, depicted an even more alarming scenario: the two pieces of rock on which the ship balances are now crumbling.
Operated by the ISPRA, Italy's National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, the robot filmed the underwater parts of the hull as it proceeded from the bow toward the stern along that part of the ship which looks toward the sea.
Seen from those unique images, the 114,500-ton ship appears as she is hanging in the blue sea without any support.
As it inspected the points of support in the bow, the robot camera revealed deep gashes in the hull. The rock on which the ship sits among bright red starfish, features a small crack, while the hull appear to be have already deformed. The deformation would be a consequence of the gravitational force to which the ship is subjected in that unnatural position.
Near the stern, a deep crack on the rock supporting the ship, is clearly visible.
According to the local daily Il Tirreno, features in the 8 inch wide fracture would reveal that it did not occur as the ship capsized, but it was produced recently under the ship's weight.
"The engineers are wise to imagine the things that can go wrong, so that they can prevent them from happening. In order to prevent the ship from breaking in two between the two supports, it may be necessary to remove some weight from her middle," Chris McKesson, professor of naval architecture at the School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of New Orleans, told Discovery News.
"Of course, to assess whether the ship is in serious danger of breaking would require structural calculations of the ship strength," McKesson said.
The video is now been evaluated by experts. They will have to establish whether the wrecked liner can resist in such a precarious resting place for nearly a year. Experts estimate that more than 10 months are required to remove the ship in its entirety.
But Franco Gabrielli, the head of the Civil Protection Authority, believes the footage is somewhat reassuring.
"It shows that a part of the seabed has got into the hull, basically increasing the ship' stability," Gabrielli said in a statement.
© 2012 Discovery Channel