Rare 1986 video of Titanic wreckage released by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
FALMOUTH - Rare and in some cases never before publicly seen video of the 1986 dive through the wreckage of the Titanic was released Wednesday by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The more than 80 minutes of footage on the WHOI's YouTube channel chronicles some of the remarkable achievements of the dive led by Robert Ballard that marked the first time human eyes had seen the giant ocean liner since it struck an iceberg and sank in the frigid North Atlantic in April 1912. About 1,500 people died during the ship's maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City.
It was a scene the mission leader deeply respects. "All throughout the debris field are pairs of shoes," Ballard said in an interview with WBZ-TV. "And that is just such a powerful signature."
A team from Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in partnership with the French oceanographic exploration organization Institut français de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer, discovered the final resting place of the ship in 12,400 feet (3,780 meters) of water on Sept. 1, 1985 using a towed underwater camera.
Nine months later, a WHOI team returned to the site in the famous three-person research submersible Alvin and the remotely-operated underwater exploration vehicle Jason Jr., which took iconic images of the ship's interior.
The site has since been combed over by several other video and salvage crews. "So, I think that's our contribution to history," Ballard said. "We'll show you the Titanic before the salvagers came and destroyed it."
Dr. Dana Yoerger was among the small band of underwater explorers who first brought the world these images back in 1986.
"This was a way to bring people all over the world from all walks of life into the deep ocean and show them part of our planet they probably never even thought about," Dr. Yoerger told WBZ.
The release of the footage is in conjunction with the 25th anniversary release on Feb. 10 of the remastered version of the Academy Award-winning movie, "Titanic."
"More than a century after the loss of Titanic, the human stories embodied in the great ship continue to resonate," ocean explorer and filmmaker James Cameron said in a statement. "Like many, 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."
The new video was not meant to be a big reveal, but instead a celebration the technology and the pioneering human spirit that made the mission possible.
"It's to remember the moment of discovery," Dr. Yoerger said. "When we first saw the Titanic up close."
The experts hope it will continue to inspire a new generation of scientists, even as the original crew still marvels about the first moment they laid eyes on the ship.
"It was lifechanging for all of us who were there," Dr. Yoerger said.
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