New Titanic Expedition Sets Sail Today From Boston

National Geographic Channel
May 27, 2004


Join the National Geographic Channel and Robert Ballard, the man who found Titanic, on a return expedition to the wreck and witness a live underwater telecast from the watery grave, over 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) under the Atlantic Ocean. The one-hour special Return to Titanic airs on Monday, June 7, at 9 p.m. ET/PT only on the National Geographic Channel.

In what has been described as a "look-but-don't-touch mission," Robert Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic and professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, is returning to the famed wreck to examine how the ship has withstood the impact of natural forces and human activity in the 19 years since he found it.

The mission, funded primarily by the Washington, D.C.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will be conducted from the NOAA research vessel the Ronald H. Brown, which departs from Boston Harbor today, en route for the North Atlantic. The wreck lies 325 miles (523 kilometers) off the coast of Newfoundland.

"Our goal is to document the ship as it is today in a dimension that has never been done before," Ballard said. He compares the technology used to discover the Titanic and the technology available to map the wreck site today "almost like comparing a satellite phone and two cans and a string … it was so primitive."

Since its discovery, salvage operations, film crews, and tourists have all visited the Titanic; one couple actually got married on the bow. There have also been rumors of rogue operations that plundered and damaged the ship. What cumulative damage all this activity caused should be revealed during this expedition.

The photo mosaic of the Titanic published in National Geographic magazine in 1986 will serve as a baseline to determine how much deterioration has occurred since then. "We can see what was natural change … and what has been caused by human activities," Ballard said.

Remotely Operated Robots Will Examine Wreck

The expedition partners include NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration, the National Geographic Society, the University of Rhode Island's Institute for Archaeological Oceanography, Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (MAIFE), and the JASON Foundation for Education.

The R.M.S. Titanic was on its maiden voyage en route from Southampton, England to New York when it hit an iceberg just before midnight on April 14th, 1912. Less than three hours later the ship sank 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) to its final resting place on April 15: Of the 2,228 passengers and crew on board, 1,523 died.

Ballard, President of the Institute for Exploration at Connecticut Mystic Aquarium and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, discovered the shipwreck at 1:05 a.m. on September 1, 1985.

On this expedition, Ballard and his colleagues will use submersible robots, named Hercules, Argus, and Little Hercules, to examine the ship. Argus and Little Hercules work together as a team. Argus is a tow sled that hangs on the end of a cable tethered to the Ronald H. Brown some 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) above.

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