Exhibit depicts secret mission to find Titanic
The Titanic might have rested undiscovered on the ocean floor for much longer if a top-secret Cold War Navy mission hadn’t taken place.
The once-classified story behind the discovery is part of National Geographic’s new exhibition “Titanic: The Untold story.” The exhibit, which opened Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and runs through Jan. 6, details oceanographer Robert Ballard’s discovery and showcases items recovered from survivors and lifeboats.
In 1985, the Navy commissioned Ballard to use submersible technology to explore the wreckage of two nuclear submarines — the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion — that sank in the north Atlantic during the Cold War. The U.S. government wanted to know about the subs’ environmental impact and whether foul play was involved, he said.
Ballard got permission from Ronald Thunman, who was deputy chief of naval operations for submarine warfare, to look for the Titanic when he was done. He had 12 days to do it.
Ballard calculated its debris field, which he likened to following a deer’s footprints. And at 2 a.m. on Sept. 1, 1985, Ballard and several crew members saw the images of the Titanic’s boiler.
“We were at the very spot Titanic sank. We were there.”
This photo of the Titanic’s bow railing is part of the exhibition in Washington.