Titanic Wreck - the Discovery of the Titanic

The Titanic Wreck

From the day it was constructed in Northern Ireland till it sunk and beyond even to the present time, this famous ship has captivated the minds of people. From a very early date some hoped to find and even raise the ship. Others believed that there would be little left of the Titanic remains in one piece, the ship having perhaps disintegrated by the pressure and the wear of the ocean. Some believed it might have been buried in a massive mudslide as a result of a powerful underwater earthquake in 1929. Still others suggested that searching the Atlantic Ocean floor for the Titanic wreck would be like looking for a needle in the haystack. But some brave, adventurous souls believed the Titanic discovery was awaiting them and they determined that to find it. One would eventually become famous.

Robert Ballard

Dr Robert Ballard, a professor of Oceanography and former commander in the US Navy had taken an interest in underwater exploration from an early age after reading the famous Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. As a young man he served in the US Navy and helped develop remotely piloted submersible vehicles. He realized that such vehicles could help discover old shipwrecks, including the Titanic wreck.

The Search is On

In 1977 he launched on his first expedition to find the Titanic aboard the ship Alcoa Seaprobe. Problems with the use of the search equipment brought the search to an early end. It was another eight years before he could begin his search again in earnest. In the summer of 1985 he and Frenchman Jean-Louis Michel led a French American group of scientists aboard the French ship Le Suroit on a ten day search of the Atlantic seabed using sonar to map it out and detect any anomalies. The ten days passed without anything tangible and the ship was required elsewhere.

Undaunted, the team transferred to the Knorr, an American ship, and continued their search where the Le Suroit had left off. Instead of relying on sonar, this time they used a remotely piloted submersible which could be towed near the ocean seabed and equipped with cameras and searchlights could look for debris or for the ship itself.

Success at Last

On September 1, 1985 they came across some man made items and eventually a massive boiler from the Titanic. The long years of searching in anticipation had come to an amazing end.

The wreck was found at a depth of 4 km (2.5 miles) about 600 km (370 miles) south east of Newfoundland, Canada. Ballard returned a year later and using a specialized submersible the Alvin, was able to descend to the seabed and see the Titanic from close up.

The Titanic Remains

Ballard found the Titanic in two main pieces. The bow had sunk first and had remained in fairly good condition. It was embedded in the ocean floor sand and silt to the level of its anchors, or about 18 meters (60 feet) deep. The stern had broken off even as the Titanic was sinking and had suffered more damage.

Some speculate that part of the damage was caused underwater. As the Titanic struck the iceberg, the bow filled with water. As the bow began to sink, the stern was lifted in the air, broke, fell into the water and sunk. Possibly as it sunk there were still large amounts of air trapped inside. As it sunk deeper and deeper, the increasing pressure from the vast amounts of water pressed upon the hull and caused an implosion and badly damaging the stern to its current state.

The Final Chapter?

The discovery of the wreck may write yet another sad page in the tragic history of this ship. Ballard and his team refrained from bringing artifacts to the surface. To him this would be tantamount to grave robbery. However, now that its position is known it is difficult to stop others from doing so, and turning the discovery into a source for illicit trade. Several court cases have endeavored to address ownership issues as well as what to do with artifacts already brought to the surface by subsequent expeditions. For all practical purposes, it seems that the last chapter in the Titanic story has not yet been written.

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