Wreck Site

The Wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic where it came to rest on April 15, 1912 just past 2:20 a.m. The 20th Centuries most famous and most studied shipwreck.

Last Picture of the Titanic

One of the last pictures of the Titanic afloat.

Titanic disappeared below the frigid waters of the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912 at 2:20 a.m. but she has never been forgotten. Immediately after the Titanic sank there were ideas to find the wreck. One of the first was by John Jacob Astors son in a attempt to recover his fathers body. His body was found within the week after the sinking and his idea was abandoned.

No serious attempts to locate the Titanic wreck were undertaken until after World War II. One of the first in July of 1953. A British salvage ship named Help made two attempts with no success.

Douglas Woolley, an English hosiery worker has aspirations of finding and raising the wreck. He had plans of finding the Titanic with a bathyscaphe and raising her by attaching balloons to her hull. He formed the Titanic Salvage Company but none of his ideas ever materialized. Woolley's publicity started more people thinking about the Titanic.

In the 70's several ideas came about to raise the Titanic, if found. One would pump molten wax into the hull and when solidified it would float to the surface. Ping pong balls were thought to be a solution also. None of these of course happened.

The next serious attempt to locate the wreck was by Jack Grimm, Texas oilman. Grimm had been known for funding expeditions to search for Noah's Ark, the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. Grimm made three trips to the North Atlantic in 1980, 1981 and 1983. His expeditions were plagued with many technical difficulties. He thought he had found one of Titanic's propellers but was later found to be a rock.

The next attempt was done by two scientific organizations, the French Institute for Research and Exploitation of the Seas (IFREMER) with Jean-Louis Michel and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Massachusetts with Robert Ballard teamed together to find the Titanic. The search would begin with IFREMER and their side-scanning sonar (SAR). In July 1985 the research vessel, Le Suroit, would search for six weeks. In August the research vessel Knorr from Woods Hole would take over the search with ARGO, a deep diving sled capable of taking pictures of the deep. The search was long and tedious. They had spend many hours looking at video screens seeing only flat ocean bottom.and occasional sea life. Finally on the night shift watch on September 1, 1985 at 1:00 a.m., man made debris came into view. One of the most striking views on the video screen was the unmistakable picture of one of Titanic's boilers. Everyone was elated that they had finally found the wreck after weeks of searching. After the excitement had died down everyone realized that it was close to the time the Titanic had sunk. Ballard gathered everyone on the fantail of the ship for a short memorial service.

Robert Ballard

Titanic boiler on the ocean floor

It was found that the ship was sitting upright on the bottom at a depth of 12,500 feet. In further exploration it was discovered that the ship had split apart between the third and fourth funnel as it sank 73 1/2 years before. Some survivors had testified in the senate hearings and stated publicly that the ship had broken in two. Others like Officer Lightoller testified that it had sunk intacked. Survivors like Jack Thayer and Eva Hart were sure that the ship had broken in two as she sank. The two pieces of the ship are separated by 1,970 feet. The bow is in fairly intacked condition but the stern section is a mass of rubble. They also discovered a large debris field where items from the inside of the ship had fallen when it sank. One item in large abundance was coal that spilled from Titanic's bunkers when she broke in two. None of the huge funnels were found, just large holes where they had been. Ballard took thousands of photographs of the wreck with the his underwater sled. These pictures would be analyzed in detail after the expedition. Finding the Titanic was a great achievement for the joint French-American expedition. Ballard would plan to return to the wreck the following summer with the underwater submersible Alvin and it's small remotely operated vehicle Jason, Jr.

In July 1986 Ballard and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute team were back in the North Atlantic getting ready to explore the wreck in person at a depth of 12,500 feet. Along with Ballard would be Martin Bowen who operated Jason, Jr. The first thing Ballard saw was the bow of the Titanic buried in the mud. He also discovered the wreck is slowly rusting away. There are rivers of rust running down the hull that Ballard called rusticles. No bodies were found by Ballards team. They would have been consumed by sea life long ago and the bones would have been dissolved by the sea. Upon analyzing the many photos of the debris field find shoes that were obviously the locations of where a body once lay. Here are some pictures of the wreck today.

Here are two painting by Ken Marshall that show what the bow and stern look like on the ocean floor.

There have been many expeditions to the wreck since Robert Ballards in 1986. The French Institute for Research and Exploitation of the Seas (IFREMER) and their research vessel Nadir and submersible Nautile have made many dives with R.M.S. Titanic, Inc., George Tulloch. They have recovered thousands of artifacts to preserve and display. Some call this grave robbing but George Tulloch considers it preserving history. It was the Nautile that helped make the IMAX film Titanica.

The Russians have also been to the wreck from the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology with their research vessel the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh and submersibles Mir 1 and Mir 2. The Keldysh and the Mir submersibles were featured in James Cameron's film Titanic.

If you wish to visit the Titanic in person, the Akademik Mstislav Keldish and Mir submersibles can be hired from Halifax, N.S. and they will take you to the Titanic wreck. All of this for a small fee of $35,000.

Historical sources for this story:

The Night Lives On by Walter Lord

National Geographic: Secrets of the Titanic

Titanic: An Illustrated History, Don Lynch and Ken Marschall

The Internet, Multiple Sites for Pictures and information

The Titanic Disaster Hearings: Official Transcripts of the 1912 Senate Investigation

The Titanic by Geoff Tibballs

James Cameron's Titanic by Ed. W. Marsh

Titanic: Legacy of the Worlds Greatest Ocean Liner by Susan Wels

Click on the banner to return to the R.M.S. Titanic Page