On the early morning of 1 Sept 1985, the wreck of the RMS Titanic was found 400 miles east of Newfoundland in North Atlantic by a joint U.S.-French expedition. The liner lay 13,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and its finding would excite the world that continues to this day.
Ever since Titanic sank in 1912, there have been many attempts in locating the wreck. However the depth of the ocean, the vastness of the search area, and technological limitations made that impossible. Robert Ballard, a former Naval officer and oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts had tried in 1977 without success. In 1985, Ballard along with French oceanographer Jean-Louis Michel, decided to set out in search of the wreck using more sophisticated technology to help locate the wreck.
This time they were equipped with more sophisticated technology to aid them in seeing what was on the ocean floor. The Argo, an unmanned and experimental submersible sent photographs up to the research vessel Knorr. And on the morning of 1 September, while investigating debris on the ocean floor, it passed over a massive boiler that came from Titanic. The following day the wreck of the ship was found and that it had split in two with a debris field between the stern and forward sections, The ship and much of the debris was in good shape despite being down there since 1912. The discovery electrified the world and confirmed (but was discounted in the British enquiry) that Titanic had split in two. Unmanned submersibles were sent down to look at the wreck giving us the first look at the ship in its watery grave. The images are just as haunting today as they were back then.
The use of the submersibles for this type of deep diving to wrecks opened up a new world of exploring shipwrecks outside of the normal diving depth humans could endure. Ultimately manned submersibles would be developed to allow researchers to slowly descend to those great depths and study the wreck of Titanic and other ships as well. While genuine controversy exists over the later salvage of Titanic (Ballard was not part of that and opposed it), the discovery of the wreck and the technology used to find it has opened up new worlds in seeing the fascinating world in our oceans.
- Wreck of the Titanic found (History.com)
- Titanic Was Found During Secret Cold War Navy Mission (National Geographic)