April 15, 1912 is a date that will never be forgotten by history. Early that morning, the RMS Titanic sank, claiming the lives of nearly 1,500 passengers in the process. The behemoth ship remained untouched at the bottom of the ocean for 73 years, until one expedition finally found it in 1985. Many had tried and failed before Dr. Robert Ballard and his crew managed to locate and explore the wreckage.
Even though it was over 30 years ago, the images from that first visit are as breathtaking as ever. The men and women who worked on this project needed to operate with the utmost precision and respect. After all, they were unearthing one of history's greatest tragedies. In the years since then, several Titanic exhibitions have toured the world and a feature film based on the event even won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
It's easy to get swept up in the mystique and romance of the early 1900s, but it's important to remember that the Titanic is a real piece of history that should not be taken lightly. We've already shown you some fascinating artifacts recovered from the ship, so now it's time to take a look at what remains of the vessel itself. Check out the images below to see what Ballard and his crew saw when they first plunged into those dark depths ...
This is Dr. Robert Ballard, one of the two men who led the expedition. He was joined by Jean-Louis Michel of the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea.
They were fortunate enough to receive funding from the Navy, but there was one catch ...
The Navy had the equipment Ballard and Michel needed to locate the Titanic, but they were more interested in using it to find two old submarines. The two men were given the funds and equipment on the condition that they would find the submarines first, then dedicate any remaining time to looking for the Titanic.
After finding the submarines, they were left with only 12 days to track down the Titanic.
Instead of relying on SONAR like previous expeditions, Ballard came up with a new technique that utilized an unmanned video camera that was towed by a separate vessel. Named "Argo," this camera offered a live video stream and made 98% of the ocean floor instantly available to explorers.
They went several days without finding anything, but spirits were lifted when they finally came across one of the ship's boilers. "We were embarrassed we were celebrating," Ballard reflected on the experience. "And all of a sudden we realized that we should not be dancing on someone’s grave."
The crew continued following the trail and eventually came face-to-face with the Titanic's iconic bow.
The crew was worried that they wouldn't have enough time to take photos, but the site has been revisited many times since then.
Now, we have all the photos we could ever want. They give us a high-definition look at this undersea graveyard.
Some want the site to be excavated, but Ballard maintains that it shouldn't be disturbed.
For many people, the halls and decks of the Titanic were the last places they would ever see before they died.
While exploring and documenting it is a great way to educate future generations, moving it from where it rests seems wrong.
Aside from history, the remains of the wreck have a lot to teach us about life under the ocean.
While some portions of the Titanic have remained in good condition, others have crumbled and faded beyond recognition.
Further expeditions were able to provide us with full views of the site.
These are two of the Titanic's engines, each one four stories tall. They've been turned orange due to a certain type of bacteria that eats iron.
Can you imagine what it will look like after another 100 years below the ocean?
For now, we'll continue to learn everything we can about this legendary ship.
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