On This Day: The wreck of the Titanic is found 13,000ft underwater

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It is 36 years since the sunken remains of the Titanic were discovered 13,000ft underwater.

The famous ship, built in Belfast, sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on 15 April, 1912, after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

More than 1,500 people died in the tragedy, still the deadliest peacetime sinking of a superliner or cruise ship.

The port bow railing of the Titanic lies in 12,600 feet of water about 400 miles east of Nova Scotia as photographed earlier this month as part of a joint scientific and recovery expedition sponsored by the Discovery Channel and RMS Titantic. Scientists plan to illuminate and then raise the hull section of this legendary ocean liner later this month.
The port bow railing of the Titanic lies in 13,000 feet of water off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. (Reuters)

It wasn’t until 73 years after its sinking that the first new images of the Titanic were released to worldwide interest.

On 1 September, 1985, the wreck of the Titanic was discovered about 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

The joint US-French team that discovered the ship was led by former US Navy officer Robert Ballard, who had already made an unsuccessful expedition to find the Titanic in 1977.

The port bow railing of the RMS Titanic lies in 12,600 feet of water about 400 miles east of Nova Scotia as photographed August 10, 1996, as part of a joint scientific and recovery expedition sponsored by the Discovery Channel and RMS Titantic. Scientists plan to illuminate and then raise the hull section of this legendary ocean liner later this month. 
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The port bow railing of the wreck of the Titanic. (Reuters)

Eight years later, the Titanic was found with the help of a remote-controlled deep-sea vehicle called Argo, which was equipped with sonar and cameras and towed behind a ship, and a robot called Jason tethered to it that roamed the sea floor and took close-up images.

Eventually, Ballard dispensed with sonar, instead concentrating on using Argo’s cameras.

After a week of searching, on Sunday, 1 September, 1985, images captured by Argo appeared on the screens of research vessel Knorr. One of the images was identified as a boiler.

The next day, the main part of the wreck of the Titanic was located and Argo sent back the first pictures of the ship since it sank 73 years earlier.

FILE - In this April 10, 1912 file photo the Titanic leaves Southampton, England on her maiden voyage. OceanGate Expeditions, an undersea exploration company, plans to dive to the sunken Titanic to begin what’s expected to be an annual chronicling of the shipwreck’s deterioration. The 109-year-old wreck is being battered by deep-sea currents and metal-eating bacteria. The first dive could be as early as this week. (AP Photo/File)
The Titanic leaving Southampton on its maiden voyage in 1912. (AP Photo)

Ballard would go on to make 11 dives to the wreck in a three-man submarine.

He revealed that the ship had split in two, but that much of its features were surprisingly well-preserved. 

Oceanographers found hundreds of thousands of pieces of debris in a two-square-mile radius around the ship.

After the initial discovery of one of the ship’s boilers, the crew on board Knorr began to celebrate and a bottle of champagne was opened.

But Ballard later said: “We were embarrassed we were celebrating.

Dr Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of Titanic in 1985, at Titanic Belfast during the launch of a 19 million dollar bid to buy a collection of 5,500 artefacts from the Titanic wreck site and bring them to Belfast. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Oceanographer Robert Ballard led the team that discovered the wreckage of the Titanic in 1985. (/PA Images via Getty Images)

“And all of a sudden we realised that we should not be dancing on someone’s grave.” 

He wrote after the discovery: “It was one thing to have won - to have found the ship.

“It was another thing to be there. That was the spooky part. I could see the Titanic as she slipped nose first into the glassy water. 

"Around me were the ghostly shapes of the lifeboats and the piercing shouts and screams of people freezing to death in the water.”

A boiler from the wreck of the Titanic lies on the Atlantic Ocean floor south of Newfoundland. The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage on April 14-15, 1912.
A boiler from the wreck of the Titanic lies on the ocean floor off Newfoundland. (Getty)

Ballard voiced his opposition to attempts to salvage artefacts from the ship.

He said: “The Titanic lies now in 13,000 feet of water on a gently sloping alpine-like countryside overlooking a small canyon below.

“There is no light at this great depth and little life can be found. It is a quiet and peaceful place - and a fitting place for the remains of this greatest of sea tragedies to rest. Forever may it remain that way.”

The wreck has been deemed too fragile to be raised and is now protected under a Unesco convention.

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