Tag Archives: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Titanic Wreck Found (1 Sept 1985)

Titanic Leaving Queenstown 11 April 1912. Believed to be the last photograph of ship before it sank.
Public Domain

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.


Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenger In Washington D.C.

Deep Sea Challenger making its way through D.C. city streets to National Geographic Society building earlier this week. It will stay for two days before heading off to Woods Hole  Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. (Photo: Washington Post)
(Photo: Washington Post)

Deep Sea Challenger making its way through D.C. city streets to National Geographic Society building earlier this week. It will stay for two days before heading off to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

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President Truman’s Yacht Rusting Away In Italy

Back in the day when President Harry Truman wanted to get away from it all or hold important meetings. he went aboard the yacht USS Williamsburg. Originally built as a private yacht in the 1930’s, it was well decorated for such uses. Then came World War II and she was converted into a gunboat. When the war ended, she was selected to replace the USS Potomac, which had served as a presidential yacht under President Roosevelt. During Truman’s presidency, it became known as the seagoing White House hosting many dignitaries such as Winston Churchill. She also was President Eisenhower’s yacht as well for a time but he decommissioned her in 1953. She was struck from the Navy list in 1962.

The Williamsburg ended up at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in 1962 where she was overhauled for marine research. All the presidential staterooms and yacht like trappings were removed. She was renamed Anton Bruun, a noted Danish marine biologist. She did several scientific cruises but suffered severe damage in 1968 due to a dry dock mishap. Deemed too expensive to restore, in 1971 she was put up for sale. It was bought up for commercial use as floating restaurant in New Jersey. In 1993 it was sent to Genoa, Italy for conversion into a luxury cruise ship. That never happened and was going to be scrapped. Some last minute intervention with the Italian government prevented that but the ship remains at La Spezia, Italy slowing rusting away. A preservation society has been formed (USS Williamsburg Preservation Society) and it is for sale by  Lloyd’s Yacht & Ship Brokers.

When you see pictures of what it was like back in the day, it is sad to see where it finally ended up. It would have been better scuttled at sea rather than ending up as it is now.

USS Williamsburg in 1946USS Williamsburg in 2008, La Spezia, Italy

1. From ‘Seagoing White House’ To Ghost Ship: Truman’s Yacht Rusts Far From Home(15 May 2013, NBC)

2.USS Williamsburg (AGC-369)(Wikipedia)

3. Harry S. Truman Presidential Library