During the summer of 1985, a collaborative team headed by Dr. Robert Ballard of Woods Hole Institute in Massachusetts and Jean Louis Michel representing INFREMER (the institute of French underwater exploration in Paris) set out to find Titanic.
Such a mission would indeed be an arduous one.
The vast area covered hundreds of nautical miles and took the form of a large triangle designated at its points by three coordinates: Boxhall’s initial calculation (read ‘Titanic’), the Mount Temple’s estimation of Titanic’s position at the time of the sinking and the location and approach vector of the Carpathia. The overall effort to explore this area with thoroughness would require several days if not weeks.
In late September, while the night shift crew conducted scans of the ocean floor via sonar scope, a large mass of metal triggered the alarms. On closer inspection, they discovered a boiler and then the hulk of a huge ship came into view… It was the Titanic’s bow! Finally, the behemoth was found. The research ship exploded in cheers.
What shocked the explorers, however, was the fact that Titanic abruptly ended around the region of the third funnel; everything aft of that point was gone. This confirmed the ongoing suspicion that the ship had broken apart the night she sank. The stern was a half-mile away in a debris field; its shattered remains were a remarkable sight. Most of those who died were either on or inside the stern when it tore apart and sank. Such knowledge has caused many onlookers to cry while gazing at this heap of splayed and twisted metal.
Other seemingly “new” discoveries included:
1. A third middle “section” was missing, which showed that the ship did not simply crack in two. The mid-section crumbled away as the ship broke apart, top-down fashion and in a twisting motion at the point of the second expansion joint situated just aft of the third funnel. The aft-grand staircase was completely gone, leaving the reciprocating engines and first-class smoking room completely exposed.
2. The decks that remained were compressed, almost flat, which suggested the stern slammed hard into the sea floor, screws first.
3. Five boilers from BR #1 rested nearby amidst a large field of coal, confirming that the break went through that compartment.
4. The hull was splayed on the starboard side and the poop deck peeled back over the docking bridge. This indicated the stern section first imploded and then exploded on its way down. The air trapped within burst outward through the third-class stairwell and cargo hold #4, obliterating the well deck and sending the poop deck backwards.
5. Five more boilers still embedded in their moorings within BR#2 at the end of the bow section substantiated the theory that the boilers, in fact, did NOT blow up that night.
These valuable findings would not have been possible to acquire had we not traveled to the bottom of the ocean to take a look. Field research is both essential and crucial to gaining knowledge that would be inaccessible through any other means.