The Oceanographers Who Discovered the Titanic Have Released Never-Before-Seen Footage of the Shipwreck Filmed by Underwater Robots

The 81-minute video has been surfaced to coincide with the 25th anniversary of 'Titanic.'

Courtesy WHOI Archives /©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The fascination with RMS Titanic, the luxury liner that sank in 1912, gained a new layer of detail on this week with the release of the footage of the wreckage, filmed during the first submersible dives in 1986.

The 81-minute video, uncut and un-narrated, tours the ill-fated ocean liner—floating across its vast deck, peering into officer cabin windows, and following its railings affixed with spooling rusticles. Captured two miles below the ocean’s surface, there’s a haunting quality to the ship’s calm, the way steel slowly emerges out of darkness.

The video, much of which had never been publicly available, has been released by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which discovered and explored the Titanic in partnership with France’s Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea nearly 38 years ago. The exploration took place in two phases with a team led by Dr. Robert Ballard returning to the site southeast of Canada’s Newfoundland nine months after the 1985 discovery.

Photo courtesy of WHOI Archives / ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Although efforts to locate the Titanic began soon after its sinking, technical limitations, cost, and the extremely challenging conditions of the North Atlantic had thwarted missions for 75 years. WHOI’s success rested largely on the use of then-groundbreaking technology including a camera sled, Argo, towed from the research vessel; a three-person submersible, Alvin; and a remotely operated vehicle, Jason Jr.

“Alvin brought scientists down 12,500 feet to the Titanic. Operating from Alvin, we used the Jason Jr. robot to penetrate Titanic and transmit images of the ship’s interior, while the people remained safely outside the wreckage,” said Dana Yoerger, WHOI engineer and a member of the Titanic missions. “For WHOI and the entire ocean research community, these advances provided an important foundation for modern deep-sea exploration technology.”

The organization has made the video available on YouTube.

WHOI has released the video to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Academy Award-winning epic Titanic, which has also been remastered and rereleased in theaters.

“Like many, I was transfixed when Alvin and Jason Jr. ventured down to and inside the wreck,” said James Cameron, who directed the movie. “By releasing this footage, WHOI is helping tell an important part of a story that spans generations and circles the globe.”


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