Being the most famous shipwreck in the world has its drawbacks. Everyone knows about the tragedy of the Titanic, but the catastrophe depicted in James Cameron’s movie is in danger of becoming overfamiliar. Images of wet and frightened actors clinging to rails and playing violins within the confines of a blockbuster only show part of the story. What about the actual vessel and its occupants that inspired the director in the first place? Thankfully, a new look at the stricken ocean liner has emerged. This 1980s underwater video footage has provided a startling and eye-opening view of the ship’s remains. Prepare to dive!
Here’s how the Titanic looked in 1986
At first it looks like a murky soup of nothing, but particles in your field of vision let you know that you’re definitely somewhere. Then shapes hover into view which become increasingly familiar — from a handrail to a sturdy pillar, this was a place where humans once went about their business. Now it’s a rusted hulk deep down in the eerie depths. Hard to believe this was billed as the height of seagoing prowess. But even the most formidable construction isn’t immune to the ravages of nature. For many, the Titanic is arguably the ultimate example of how something mighty can fall, despite all expectations.
Unsinkable yet fallible
The RMS — or Royal Mail Ship — Titanic got the chance to shine on the water, though ultimately its period afloat was brief. It certainly set off in grand style from Southampton, with a great deal of admiration from the crowd. The luxury craft was bound for New York, with stops in France and Ireland along the way. It had originally traveled to Southampton from the Emerald Isle in the first place. Belfast is where the White Star Line ship was built, courtesy of the Harland & Wolff company. The vessel was actually heading to Queenstown, now Cobh, in County Cork, prior to its final destination.
You no doubt already know the Titanic hit an iceberg, but what were the specifics? The natural wonder turned destructive force was spotted close to midnight on April 14, 1912. It wasn’t a totally out of the blue occurrence. The crew had time to turn and, at the time, it may have seemed like a crisis was averted. Turned out the situation wasn’t what it seemed, as they got up close. History writes that, while the craft didn’t hit the ice head on, it “seemed to graze along the side of the berg, sprinkling ice fragments on the forward deck”. A nerve-jangling sight for certain.
The North Atlantic Ocean that carried both the Titanic and the iceberg had a nasty surprise waiting. Below the surface, a frozen spur jutted out. As the ship appeared to survive a close shave, it was in fact sliced open at the bottom. The hull suffered a fatal injury, with a reported 300 feet taking in gallons of water. There was nothing else to do but evacuate the ship. Chaos followed, with the divisions between upper and lower decks never more starkly illustrated. Lifeboats weren’t properly organized and panic appeared to take over. Three hours later and the ocean claimed the Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland.