A court has heard that the wreck of the Titanic was struck by a submarine last year - information kept secret by the US government.
New legal papers reveal that the remains of the Harland & Wolff-constructed passenger liner, which lies on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean in two pieces, was hit by an underwater vehicle hired by a British company.
Adventure firm EYOS Expeditions, based in the Isle of Man, took a group of scientists from Newcastle University to the site of the Belfast-built ship's final resting place last July.
It has emerged that during the trip, their £27m two-man Triton submarine made contact with the wreck after the pilot lost control due to "intense and highly unpredictable currents".
The Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage in 1912, with the loss of over 1,500 lives. Dozens of expeditions to the site have been carried out since its final resting place was discovered 35 years ago.
Rob McCallum, who led the EYOS expedition, insisted that any damage caused to the wreck could only have been minor.
He said: "We tried to keep away from the Titanic but we had to go close to deposit two science samples.
"We did accidentally make contact with the Titanic once, while we were near the starboard hull breach, a big piece of the hull that sticks out.
"Afterwards we observed a red rust stain on the side of the sub. But the submersible while underwater is essentially weightless - it's not a battering ram."
Last week US firm RMS Titanic Inc revealed plans to cut open the wreck and remove the famous Marconi wireless system, known as the "voice of Titanic".
The plans are fiercely opposed by US government weather agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is responsible for protecting deep sea wrecks.
In papers filed at the District Court of Eastern Virginia, RMST allege that the NOAA knew the EYOS submarine struck the Titanic but officials failed to inform the court.
RMST says the fact it took EYOS over five months to admit the collision in an official report on January 8 "raises a series of troubling issues". The firm has demanded EYOS produces video footage of the collision on "penalty of perjury".