The first serious attempt to locate the wreck of Titanic was financed by a Texan called Jack Grimm. In the summer of 1980, he hired two of the world’s top oceanographers to lead the expedition. It set sail from Port Everglades, Florida. Despite eyewitness accounts from 1912 that Titanic had split in two as she sank, the generally held opinion was that she remained intact. The 1980 film “Raise the Titanic” further perpetuated that myth with a famous scene which shows Titanic sailing proudly into New York harbour. The film’s producer, Lew Grade famously said that it would have been cheaper to “lower the Atlantic.” The romantic notion of refloating the world’s most famous ship was about to be quashed once and for all.
As a publicity stunt, the expedition was going to carry as one of its passengers a monkey called Titan. It is rumoured that the monkey had been trained to point at the spot on a map where Titanic was believed to be. However the scientists rebelled, telling Grimm it was either them or the monkey. The monkey was left behind. The expedition trawled an area around the position from which Titanic had radioed her distress call but nothing was found. The project was dogged by bad weather and equipment failure. A second attempt the following year passed within two miles of the wreck but just out of range of the sonar equipment. Jack Grimm believed he had found one of Titanic’s propellers but a third trip revealed it was too small to belong to the famous liner.
Bob Ballard- Locating the Wreck of RMS Titanic
In the summer of 1985, a joint operation was launched between a French oceanographic team and an American team which left from Woods Hole in Massachusetts. It was led by Dr Robert Ballard. The crew spent over three weeks scanning the area known as Titanic Canyon. On Sunday September 1st, 1985 just before 1am, scientist, Stu Harris got what we now know to be the first glimpse of Titanic for 73 years. In his book “The Discovery of the Titanic” Ballard writes, “Stu’s eyes were fixed to the Argo monitor. There’s something, he said as he pointed at the TV screen. Suddenly every member of the sleepy watch became alive and alert.”
What looked like a boiler was cross checked against the 1911 photographs of Titanic’s boilers at Harland and Wolff. As a tribute to the shipyard which had built Titanic, Ballard raised the Harland and Wolff flag on the team’s vessel and a memorial service was held for those who had died there 73 years earlier. The expedition spent a further four days taking video and photographic footage of the wreck before returning to Woods Hole to release the pictures to the waiting media. Ballard commented that he totally underestimated what a frenzy the wreck’s discovery would cause and what a hunger there would be for images and information. A press conference was finally held on 9th September.
Mapping the Wreck of the RMS Titanic- Subsequent Dives
From that momentous moment, a flurry of activity was begun to photograph, film, and map and probe the wreck of Titanic. Ballard returned to the wreck a year later in an expedition funded by the United States Navy. During the descent to the ocean floor, the crew would play classical music, Vivaldi and Beethoven. On this trip, it became clear how deeply sunk into the mud Titanic’s bow section was and that any attempt to lift her would prove fruitless.
Since these early dives, many artefacts and pieces of the ship and her equipment have been brought to the surface to be exhibited to the public. Amongst the items which now form part of touring exhibitions are suitcases, musical instruments, bottles of champagne with the corks still intact, ship’s equipment, shoes, hats and even perfume samples which still have a scent.
Even pieces of Titanic’s coal are sold on the internet as souvenirs. Irish oceanographer, Rory Golden gives regular talks on his voyages to the wreck of Titanic. He says the wreck is deteriorating at an increasingly fast rate and has seen many changes in the five years between his Titanic dives. Debate rages as to whether more artefacts should be brought up from the wreck or whether it should be left as a grave site. The appetite for images, articles and information about the Titanic would suggest that exploration is likely to continue for another 25 years.
Dr Ballard visits Belfast
In October 2011 Dr Ballard visited Belfast, where he confirmed that he will be providing previously unseen Titanic material for the new Titanic Belfast
He also met with schoolchildren at the drawing offices of Harland and Wolff and described his discovery of the Titanic wreck.