Knorr. On July 5, 1985, the search began. Ballard joined the search on July 22nd, when Le Suroit resupplied at the island of St. Pierre. Up to this point, the French had come up empty. Behind schedule already, there was only 17 days left of the sonar search remaining, which would only be possible if the weather remained good. On August 6, they headed back to port empty handed, and everyone was quiet during the return trip.

On August 12, the American search began. Ballard had invited Jean-Louis along with two other members of the French team, IFREMER. On August 24, the Knorr made its way into the vicinity of Titanic Canyon, leaving them twelve days for the visual search. They started at some of the sonar targets that had been identified during the Grimm expeditions, just to make sure they didn’t miss anything. One of the sites was the "propeller" site, which turned out to be wrong because Grimm intentionally falsified its location. On August 27, they were done checking the sonar sites, and were headed for the start of their search area. By this time the watch shifts earned the nicknames, "The Zoo Crew", "Harris’s Heroes", and "The Crash Crew". If you want to find out how these came about, pick up a copy of Ballard’s book, The Discovery of the Titanic.

By August 30, morale had started to diminish and still no sight of Titanic. During the Zoo Crew’s watch, they spotted a sonar target that had a real possibility of being the Titanic, but both Ballard and Jean-Louis were sure it was just high sand waves. The crew wanted to check it out closer, but Ballard didn’t. To prevent a mutiny, and because morale was low, they compromised. They doubled back and ran between lines 5 and 6 of the search. They felt this was ok, because if time permitted, and the Titanic hadn’t been located, they would go back between the original lines anyway. Ballard was right, it was not the Titanic. On August 31, the weather was continuing to worsen, and they had to stop the search for a short time to repair Argo. At Midnight, Harris’s Heroes took their posts in the Van, the name of the command center on the Knorr, and Billy Lange made his nightly prediction of when they would find the Titanic. This night’s prediction was between 2 – 2:30 am.

Ballard was in his cabin, reading, when just before 1 am the excitement started to simmer. A new kind of image appeared, it was wreckage. They waited to get Ballard, as they didn’t want a false alarm. When they decided to get Ballard, no one wanted to leave the Van, so they sent the cook, whom just happened to stop by the Van for the first time all expedition. While this was happening, a recognizable image appeared on the screen, it was a boiler. Unmistakable proof they had finally found the Titanic. After Ballard got to the Van, the place erupted with jubilation. As they continued to watch, images of railing, portholes, etc. started to appear and for the first time in 73 years human eyes had seen the Titanic. At 2:20 am, on September 1, 1985, Ballard and members of the crew held a short memorial service for those that went down with the Titanic.

Their First Looks

When they closely examined the position of the Titanic, they realized the French came within 3,300 feet of it on one of their first passes. With only a few days left, Ballard decided to take a big risk, he wanted to fly Argo over the Titanic wreckage. Still not knowing whether the smokestacks were still present, this could be an expedition-ending situation if Argo were to get caught in the rigging. As they lowered Argo below the level of the smokestacks, the hull started to come into view. When the first pass was over, they had seen a good portion of the boat deck, and the place erupted again with sounds of joy. On another pass they went aft of smokestack two and discovered that the stern part of the ship was missing. On September 3, the seas go too rough to use Argo, so they decided to deploy Angus, who took still images and could be operated in rougher seas. Angus took thousands of pictures of the debris field and the hull of the ship. The stern still had not been located. The first round of pictures turned out to be nothing but blurring images, so with time running out, and very rough seas, they had four hours for one more try. This time they succeeded in getting some good color pictures.

After the onslaught of media coverage, it became apparent that the one thing they failed to plan for, was the rights to the distribution of images and video. This lack of planning ultimately resulted in the break up of the French/American team.

A Year Later

On July 12, 1986, the second expedition of Robert Ballard arrives easily at the site of the Titanic. This time, to dive to the depths of two and half miles, in a submersible. Alvin would be the submersible used, the only two in existence at the time, to make the dive. Jason Jr., nicknamed J.J., was Alvin’s robot companion, and would be the one to go deep into the wreck, where Alvin couldn’t go safely.

Day 1 of 12

This day started out perfect, with a beautiful day, but almost immediately the sonar on Alvin went out, meaning the ship above would have to

nav1.gif (2340 bytes)