Finding the Titanic – Dr. Robert Ballard’s Epic Journey Part One

RobertBallardWhen the RMS Titanic went down in 1912, it did not take long for people to get over the initial shock, but then decide that the grand ship should be raised from the bottom of the ocean. There were all kinds of ideas, and some people really put a lot of thought into how to bring Titanic up from the ocean floor. However, there were two problems that presented itself, and people were really very creative about the solutions. The two biggest issues that people had to deal with was the fact that the Titanic was at least two miles down, and the fact the iceberg had cut a giant slice along her right side. However, despite a lot of really good ideas, it would take 73 years for her to be found on the bottom of the ocean. The man that found the great ship was named Dr. Robert Ballard, and if not for him, Titanic might not have ever been back in the spotlight again.

The Location of the RMS Titanic

The night of April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg, and it took over two and a half hours for it to sink. Within a few minutes after the strike, the wireless room was a buzz with activity, and the captain gave Jack Phillips, and Harold Bride, the position of where the ship was, which was 41 46 N, 50 14 W. The rescue ships were all speeding toward these coordinates, but was the Titanic really in that position? Typically, when ships stop, whether it is for the night or sinking, the currents will tend to move that ship even if the anchors have been lowered, and the engines stopped. The Titanic still moved even though her engines had gone cold, but her exact position was not known at the time she sank.  The first thing that Dr. Robert Ballard did when he began his search for the Titanic was to use her final position as the starting place for his search. Using the best technology of the day, Ballard arrived at the exact spot, and he began searching in a pattern he called mowing the lawn. However, Ballard did not search at those exact coordinates, but actually began with the area around it because he knew all too well about the fact that ships can still move despite the fact their engines are stopped.  Ballard, and his crew, took shifts using a special sonar that was going back and forth in a pattern searching for any sign of the great ship. Ballard was not looking for the ship at first, but he figured he would look for the debris, and then follow it to the Titanic. 

The Joy of Discovery

robert_ballard2On the early morning hours of September 1, 1985, another shift was settling in to watch the ocean floor for any signs of the Titanic.  Dr. Ballard himself was not present on the bridge, and had actually gone back to his cabin. The search had been going on for a total of 56 days, and the whole crew was very frustrated at the fact that there seemed to be no sign at all as to where the Titanic was.  Finally, around one o’clock in the morning, the crew began to notice that some images were appearing on the monitors. Though the technology used was not high definition, the slightly grainy images were still coming in. There were large piece of debris that were not easy to recognize,and it was not until a round boiler appeared on the screen, that people finally understood exactly what they were looking at.

“Someone should really go get Bob.” One crew member said, and finally, someone got up to go. Bob Ballard was reading in bed when a crew member said that he was needed in the surveillance room. By the time Bob Ballard got there, the whole crew was ecstatic because the boilers on the screen were the very distinctive round ones that both the Titanic and Olympic had. However, the mood in the room changed because as soon as more debris began to appear, the crew realized the enormity of exactly what they had found. The crew had found the graveyard where over 1500 poeple had died, and the exploration had just begun of the biggest ship in the world back in 1912…

 

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