Rare footage shows ‘haunting’ dives to Titanic after wreck’s discovery


Rare footage has been released showing the Titanic on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

The video, most of which has not been seen by the public before, was shot just months after explorers found the wreckage in September 1985.

More than 1,500 people died when the Titanic, which was on its way from Southampton to New York during its maiden voyage, sank in the North Atlantic on 15 April 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

The liner – the largest afloat at the time it entered service – was discovered by a team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the French National Institute of Oceanography.

The ship's bow is clearly visible. Pic: WHOI Archives, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The ship’s bow is clearly visible. Pic: WHOI Archives, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

During 11 dives in July 1986, footage was shot from a manned submersible and a small remotely operated vessel able to manoeuvre through tight spaces.

Now, 80 minutes of uncut footage is being posted on the WHOI’s YouTube channel.

The grainy black and white images show the bow of the liner and some railings along one of its decks, among other aspects of the famous passenger ship.

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Pic: WHOI Archives, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Some railings are clearly visible. Pic: WHOI Archives, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Pics: WHOI Archives, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Oceanographer Robert Ballard said the first thing he saw when he descended 2.5 miles under the sea was a “giant wall of riveted steel that rose over 100 and some feet above us”.

He added: “I never looked down at the Titanic. I looked up at the Titanic. Nothing was small.”

‘It was pretty haunting’

There was no human flesh or bones left, but Mr Ballard saw shoes, including the footwear of what appeared to be a mother and a baby.

“After the Titanic sank, those that went into the water that didn’t have life jackets died of hypothermia,” he said.

Robert Ballard.
Robert Ballard dived to the wreck in 1986

The three-man submersible had to surface when its batteries started taking on water.

As it rose, Mr Ballard recalls seeing the Titanic’s portholes.

“It was like people looking back at us. It was pretty haunting actually,” he said.

WHOI engineer Andy Bowen said the biggest challenge was the “remoteness of the location”, adding that the “water is near freezing”.

The footage’s publication has been coordinated with the 25th anniversary re-release of the 1997 James Cameron movie, Titanic.

Starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, it won 11 Academy Awards including best picture.

“The human stories embodied in the great ship continue to resonate,” Cameron said in a statement.

“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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