Immediately after the Titanic sank in 1912, people were scrambling to organize a deep-sea mission to locate and recover the unsinkable ship. However, the ship wasn't found until 1985, sparking a heated debate about who owned the ship, the valuables inside of it, and the land surrounding it.
The Universally Known Shipwreck StoryTitanic Universe
The story of the Titanic's wreck is almost universally known, thanks in part to James Cameron's movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The ship departed on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England for New York on April 10th 1912. Just four days later, the ship hit an iceberg and sank. The sinking of the ship was highly publicized because of the large number of deaths of people on board, and because it was marketed as one of the safest ships ever built.
Building The Ship, And Leaving Out LifeboatsWikipedia: Wikimedia Commons
In fact, the engineers who designed the ship only included half the lifeboats needed in case of emergency. Reports about the ship prior to its New York trip claimed the lifeboats were actually placed on board just so the Titanic could rescue people from other shipwrecks.
Crazy Schemes To Raise The TitanicWikipedia: Wikimedia Commons
When the Titanic went down, it was about 370 miles south-southeast of Newfoundland, and was at a depth of 12,500 feet. After the boat sank, many explorers were eager to recover the ship, and there were several expensive and ridiculous schemes concocted to get to it. Most people wanted to raise the ship back to the surface, and claimed they could do so by filling it with Ping-Pong balls or Vaseline, or by dousing it in liquid nitrogen to turn it into a big iceberg that would float to the surface.
Disney And National Geographic Get InvolvedImagineering Disney
Several groups were interested in raising the Titanic from the depths of the Ocean, and many for purely financial reasons. One hosiery worker claimed he could raise the Titanic by attaching nylon balloons to the hull. He also planned on converting the Titanic into a floating museum. Walt Disney and National Geographic also teamed up with a plan to excavate the Titanic using a submarine, but abandoned the plan when they ran out of funding.
Locating The TitanicWikipedia: Wikimedia Commons
Up until 1985, people thought they knew what general area the Titanic was in, but its exact location was unknown. There were a few attempts to map the sea floor using sonar, but no one was successful until French-American explorer Jean-Louis Michel and Robert Ballard came along.
Taking Photos With ArgoWikipedia: Wikimedia Commons
Michel was with IFREMER and Ballard was with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The pair owed the success of their mission to a deep-sea vehicle called Argo. Argo was a remote-controlled device that was sent underwater to take photographs that were sent back to the main ship. Argo took several photos that revealed the ship was split into two pieces about a third of a mile apart.
Jack Grimm Paves The WayReporter News
Prior to Michel and Ballard's expedition, a Texas oilman and explorer Jack Grimm set out to find the ship and ended up mapping a lot of the ocean around the Titanic. Grimm was following the coordinates of the distress signal sent out when the ship began to capsize, but after exhausting his resources the only thing he discovered was that the coordinates were incorrect.
The Bow Of The TitanicWikipedia: Wikimedia Commons
Grimm's expedition inspired Ballard to create Argo so he could map the ocean floor a little bit easier. The U.S. Navy later adopted the technology and used it for classified missions. Some of the coolest photos captured by Argo and later missions to the wreck site show the bow of the ship, which is still easily recognizable.
Inside The Sunken TitanicWikipedia: Wikimedia Commons
After the initial images of the Titanic were taken, several more missions were carried out to capture more photographs of the sunken ship. Ballard also developed an underwater submersible that could actually transport people underwater to study the ship. Additionally, he created an underwater camera that was able to travel into the interior of the ship. There, the cameras uncovered a whole world of sea life that had made the unsinkable ship home. Here is a snapshot of the Captain's bathroom; the claw foot bathtub is still intact but is overrun with rust.
Uncovering Valuable Items From The ShipWikipedia: Wikimedia Commons
A few years after the Titanic was discovered, IFREMER and RMS Titanic Inc. carried out a 15-day diving expedition to recover artifacts from the ship. The front of the ship was explored the most; the stern was heavily damaged in the wreck and has not been heavily combed through for artifacts. The middle of the ship broke apart like a comet when it hit the ocean floor, so a lot of debris was spread out in a huge radius around the wreck.
Putting The Titanic On DisplayWilliam C Barnes
Most of the Titanic is too fragile to be moved, and Ballard is passionate about funding a project to preserve the ship and protect it from tourists and scavengers. However, one piece of the hull was successfully removed and brought to the shore in 1998. The scrap was transported to a museum in Boston and in 2006 it was mounted onto the roof of the Metreon in San Francisco. Unless the remaining pieces of the Titanic are heavily preserved, it will likely dissolve into a heap of rust on the ocean floor.
While Ballard and his crew did not take any artifacts from the site, claiming it was similar to grave robbing, other groups since then have not had that kind of respect for the site. Items like watches, coal, and musical instruments have been salvaged and sold or placed on display.
Controversy About The Ship's PreservationWikipedia: Wikimedia Commons
Initially when the ship sank, people believed it went down in one piece. Also, people thought the frigid cold temperatures of the Atlantic would preserve the ship and keep it perfectly intact. However, when the ship was discovered it was clear it was home to many metal-eating bacteria and archaea that produce very fragile reddish brown rusticles.
Ballard and Michel were initially surprised that there was little evidence of dead bodies aboard the ship. Experts believe fish and crustaceans would have devoured the flesh and bones of the dead passengers by the 1940s, and the only evidence of people the explorers found were pairs of shoes sitting side by side.