On April 15, 1912, at 2:20am, the British ocean liner Titanic disappeared into the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada. It took 3,000 men two years to build this massive ship. It’s huge hull was held together by three million rivets and it could transport 2,200 passengers and crew. But having struck an iceberg, the ship took on water before sinking 12,600 feet to the dark depths, never to be fully salvaged. Today, we ask why, in this episode of The Infographics Show: Why is Titanic Still at the Bottom of the Ocean?
Before we answer this question, let’s first look at what we know about Titanic’s last few days at sea. On April 10, the RMS Titanic departed Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic was designed by the Irish shipbuilder Thomas Andrews and it was owned by Bruce Ismay. It was thought to be unsinkable. The ship traveled to Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland to pick up some passengers before setting out into the Atlantic full steam ahead to New York. On its first journey across the highly competitive Atlantic ferry route, the ship carried some 2,200 passengers and crew.
Just before midnight on April 14, the Titanic collided with an iceberg, which smashed into at least five of its hull compartments. As these compartments filled with water, the bow of the ship was pulled down until it was almost vertical. Then the Titanic broke in half, before sinking to its end. More than 1,500 people died, either by being dragged down with the ship or freezing to death in the icy North Atlantic waters. It took nearly an hour and a half for help to arrive, but more than 700 people were saved. Most of those survivors were women and children. Millvina Dean was the last living survivor of the Titanic. She passed away on May 31st, 2009. Millvina was just nine weeks old when the Titanic sank.
So what do we know about the wrecked remains of this big vessel? Firstly we’ve already mentioned that the ship sank to 12,600 feet. That’s a long way down; in fact it’s over 2 miles at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s pitch black and hard to access with extremely high water pressure. The ship also snapped into two pieces, which actually lay 1,970 feet apart from one another on the ocean floor. The New York Times ran an article about an expedition run by Dr. Robert D. Ballard, to find the wreck.
It took 11 dives to locate the debris, but the remains of Titanic were located on July 14th, 1986, 74 years after it sank. On completing the mission, Ballard was quoted as saying ”I feel very confident the Titanic will never be raised. It would be impossible to pull it out of the bottom.” Extensive rust has left the Titanic ”very fragile,” he said. Its stern section, a shambles of wreckage, is about 2,000 feet astern of the bow half.
Why the two parts are so widely separated remains a mystery. Following Ballard’s discovery, there were a number of other trips, and between July and September 1987, an expedition mounted by IFREMER and a consortium of American investors made 32 dives to Titanic using the submersible Nautile. Somewhat controversially, they recovered and brought ashore more than 1,800 objects. Then in 1996, there was an ambitious attempt to raise a section of Titanic itself.
A section of the outer hull that originally comprised part of the wall of two First Class cabins on C Deck, extending down to D Deck. It weighed 20 tons, measured 15 by 25 feet (4.6 m × 7.6 m) and had four portholes in it. British Newspaper, The Independent reported that the hi-tech expedition to raise the Titanic used flotation bags filled with diesel fuel, which is lighter than water and could withstand the high pressure found at such depths.
Over a six-day period the so-called lift bags were attached to the section of hull with specially constructed cables. But when the bags were jettisoned to begin gently lifting the hull to the surface, only 4 of the 6 successfully launched. To salvage the mission, a submersible equipped with mechanical arms, which was owned by the French government, was brought in to save the day. Former astronaut, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, even joined the crew to add additional expertise. The crew succeeded and the huge section of the ship was lifted more than two miles from the seabed by the flotation balloons. Onlookers paid as much as US$6,000 to view the expedition from two ships nearby.
So the titanic has not been fully recovered but then a big section has been, which in itself is quite an achievement. Is there still a chance to go back and recover more of the shipwreck? Maybe not…earlier this year the BBC reported that the hull might eventually disappear all together as scientists have said that a species of bacteria is slowly eating away its iron construction. However if you have enough spare cash, there will soon be a once-in-a-lifetime tourist opportunity to glide around the Titanic’s wreck. American company OceanGate is planning to dive to the wreck site in 2019. The first voyage is already fully booked, at a hefty price tag of over $105,000 per person. And The Bluefish, a self-described experiential concierge firm, is also planning Titanic trips around the same time. So at least there’s chance to get a glimpse before she disappears forever.
Is it worth paying more than $100,000 to see the Titanic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called, What Actually Happens in the Bermuda Triangle?! Thanks for watching and as always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time!