The RMS Titanic - Discovery
ALMOST IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE SINKNG of the Titanic, plans were underway to find the wreck. Vincent Astor, son of John Jacob Astor planned to immediately find the wreck and blow it up in the hopes that his father's body would float to the surface. This plan was discarded the next day when the Mackay-Bennett recovered the remains of Vincent's father. Even though Vincent Astor gave up his plan to find the Titanic, the public continued to be interested in her, her resting place, and her discovery. Part of the public's interest was the fact that she had sunk in a relatively unknown part of the Atlantic, 450 miles of the coast of Newfoundland. Even the unreachable depth of the wreck, 12,460 feet below the surface, didn't faze the public's interest. Ever since the Titanic sank, there has always been a steady stream of plans, usually farfetched an impossible, to find and even raise the Titanic. Most of these dreamers were fueled by the belief that the Titanic carried a load of gold and precious gems, even though the cargo manifest and insurance claims stated otherwise. Every plan to find the Titanic was limited by one major factor: water pressure. The pressure at the depth of the Titanic, nearly two and a half miles down, is 6,000 pounds per square inch, enough to turn almost any vessel and her crew into powder.
Even that limitation didn't stop some people. The Astor, Guggenheim, and Widener families jointly contracted the Merrit and Chapman Derrick and Wrecking Company to find and raise the Titanic. The company correctly decided that the raising of the Titanic was impossible with 1912 technology. In 1913, Charles Smith planned to take a submersible down and attach electromagnets to the hull. These electromagnets would be attached to a cable which would in turn be attached to a winch on a barge. Smith believed that the barge would raise the ship. This plan and another plan involving magnets were turned down.
The Titanic was almost forgotten in the hard years of the Great Depression, and remained so until the publishing of Walter Lord's A Night to Remember in 1955. With this book and a British movie based on his book, the public's obsession with the Titanic was back in full swing. Many other plans were produced; several of which came from the fertile mind of Douglas Woolley, an English hosiery worker. Lacking scientific training but with a flair for publicity. He was never able to raise sufficient funds for his wild schemes. In the 80s, Jack Grimm, Mike Harris, and a scientific team from Columbia University planned to search for the Titanic. The Columbia University team included two of the best oceanographers in the world. They chartered the H.J.W. Fay, packed their expensive, advanced equipment and set out to the spot where they thought the Titanic lay. Bad weather, which is common in the North Atlantic, disrupted their plans and sent them home early. Grimm funded a grand total of three expeditions to find the Titanic, eventually ending up out $2 million.
The expedition that would ultimately find the Titanic started out as a joint French - American venture. The crews used new, sophisticated side-scan sonaar developed by the French and deployed on the Le Suroit. After twenty-one days spent covering eighty percent of the search area in horribly rough seas, the Le Suroit headed back to France while the French and American teams transferred to the U.S. Navy ship Knorr. Employing the American's advanced video camera system, capable of operating in near darkness. Concentrating on the twenty percent not covered by the Le Suroit, the Knorr employed a search grid known as "mowing the lawn", the same plan used by the French. "Mowing the lawn" consisted of moving back and forth along the search grid, turning 180° upon reaching the end of the search grid, clearing out the 400 square mile grid in three fifths of a mile strips for the side-scanning sonar, a smaller area for the cameras. Team leader Robert D. Ballard, a geologist, knew that if they could find the debris field, they would almost certainly find the hulk of the Titanic. Argo, a deep-sea submersible carrying strobe lights along with the ultrasensitive cameras was lowered into the sea and began the search. After 14 thouroghly boring days of searching, on September 1, 1985 at 5:01AM, one of Titanic's huge boilers came into view. Moments later, port holes, bits of hull, and steel railing were seen. The next day, Argo was sent down again, where it found the Titanic in her final resting place.