165: Discovery of the Wreck of the Titanic

"Titanic wreck bow" by Courtesy of NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island (NOAA/IFE/URI). - http://www.gc.noaa.gov/gcil_titanic.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Titanic_wreck_bow.jpg#/media/File:Titanic_wreck_bow.jpg
The bow of the wreck of the Titanic. (Courtesy of NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island via Wikimedia Commons)

30 years ago today, a joint American and French expedition discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic on the floor of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Here are a few things you may not have known about the discovery.

Soon after the vessel sank in 1912, schemes to find and or raise the wreck were hatched by relatives of some of the wealthy victims of the sinking. Given the technology of the time, none of these proved feasible. In the 1960s and 1970s several outlandish ideas to raise the wreck were hatched, including tying balloons to the wreck, filling it full of ping-pong balls, and freezing the water around the wreck in order to float it. None of these ideas overcame the issue that the wreck is located under more than 12,000 feet of water and under more than 6,000 pounds per square inch of water pressure.

The first legitimate attempt came in the early 1980s when Texas oilman Jack Grimm sponsored three expeditions to find the Titanic. The first featured a low-resolution sonar that was lost after 36 hours of searching. The second used a better sonar but didn’t discover anything. The third expedition was cut short by bad weather. It turned out that the first mission had passed over the wreck and the second came within a mile-and-a-half of it.

Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute helped develop a remote-controlled deep-sea submarine called Argo along with a robot tethered to it called Jason that was able to get into smaller areas than Argo. The system was built under sponsorship of the U.S. Navy, which allowed the researchers to use the system when it wasn’t being used for naval purposes. In 1985, after spending more than two weeks mapping the wreck of the USS Scorpion, the researchers had 12 days to look for Titanic. After a week of searching using the cameras on Argo, a boiler from Titanic was discovered at 12:48 a.m. on Sept. 1. The main part of the wreck was discovered the next day.

Ballard returned to Titanic in 1986 using the deep-sea vehicle Alvin, becoming the first person to explore the wreck first-hand. Since the discovery, many artifacts have been pilfered from the wreck against the wishes of Robert Ballard. The wreck has deteriorated greatly since sinking and it has been estimated that the wreck could collapse completely as soon as 2025.

Our question, Where did Titanic depart on her maiden voyage?

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