It took almost 75 years for researchers to record the first footage of the remains of the Titanic, buried over 2 miles beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. It then took them nearly 40 years more to release the footage in its fuller form.
This week, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) released 80 minutes of untrimmed footage from its first filmed voyage to the sunken ship. Captured only months after a team from the WHOI found the wreck in 1985, the footage features several shots of the Titanic — including its prow, rusty railings and cavernous cabins — that are completely new to the public.
Salvaging a Sunken Ship
Calls to salvage the Titanic came almost immediately after the ship sank in 1912. That said, the sheer size of the Atlantic Ocean and the inadequacy of the technology of the time stalled the search for the wreck for years.
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In fact, it was only in 1985 that the WHOI, working in close collaboration with the Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer (IFEMER), developed and deployed the technology that finally found the Titanic. Consisting of two deep-sea submersibles called Argo and Jason, this technology was towed behind a research ship at the surface of the water and was armed with sonar sensors and cameras to detect the debris of what was once seen as “unsinkable.”
Following the trail of the wreckage all the way to the ship itself, the team found the Titanic in two separate pieces, approximately 400 nautical miles south-southeast of the Newfoundland coast. The next year, in 1986, another team from the WHOI returned to the site to investigate the wreck further.
Drifting through the depths in a three-person submersible called Alvin and weaving a remotely controlled robot called Jason Jr. through the ship’s interior, this team captured the recently released footage. According to a WHOI press release, the footage constitutes “the first time that humans laid eyes on the vessel since its ill-fated voyage.”
A Film First (And 25th)
The biggest, swankiest ship in service at the time, the Titanic was believed to be invincible when it began its maiden voyage in 1912. That said, as it traveled through the Atlantic Ocean, sailing from Southampton to New York, the ship struck a gigantic iceberg and started to sink.
Over 1,500 people died as the ship descended into the sea, sending shockwaves around the world and shattering records for deadly sea disasters at the time.
According to the WHOI, the reveal of this new, never-released footage corresponds with the 25th anniversary of the film Titanic, which was remastered and re-released in theaters this month.
“More than a century after the loss of Titanic, the human stories embodied in the great ship continue to resonate,” says James Cameron, the director of the film, according to the WHOI press release. “I was transfixed when Alvin and Jason Jr. ventured down to and inside the wreck. By releasing this footage, WHOI is helping tell an important part of a story that spans generations and circles the globe.”