Page 6 - National Geographic - Whats Destroying Titanic 2004
P. 6
By Robert D. Ballard DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR ARCTTABOLOCICAL OCBANOGRAPHY, UNIVERSITY OP RHODE ISLAND The debris field hit me hardest. Flere in that ghosdy expanse of seafloor 350 miles off Newfound- land, th. people who died during the fttgtdearly hours ofApril 15, L9L2., spoke to me again. A case of champagne lay on the bottom, its bottles still corked-a reminder of Titanic's Gapt. Edward J. Smith role as a floating palace of the rich and power- commanded both a ship fuI. The box holding the bottles had long ago and a world-class hotel. disappeared, consumed by wood-eating mol- A well-preserved leather lusks. Next to them were tiles decorated with a trunk resting on the sea- red-and-white design, possibly from a public floor (right topl may have room. Suddenly my eye was drawn to a wom- held the formal dress of an's shoe, lying on its side. Nearby were three one of Titanic's many large combs and a pair of smaller shoes that weahhy passongers, some may have belonged to a child. And beside them of whom dined with Smith on the night of the was a hand mirror. disaster. A collapsed wall exposes the cap' How did these objects find themselves tain's private bathtub (rightl. now filled with together on the bottom? Did the larger shoe rust, to the lens of an undercoa oam6ra. belong to a mother, who combed her daughtert beautifrrl long hair? What did the girl's face look removing thousands of objects from what I con- like that mayonce have been reflected in this mfu- sider a sacred grave. Russian submarines had ror? A short distance away were more shoes, a taken Hollywood filmmaker |ames Cameron pair from a young girl, and another pair near and others to the wreck, also breaking no laws what looked to me like a sailor's black slicker. A but reportedly colliding with the hull. Cruise pair of shoes cannot fall 12,500 feet by themselves ships had circled the site while RMS Titanic, lnc. and land like this. Their journey was together. tried to raise a 20-ton piece of the ship. A beer company had sponsored sweepstakes to watch t had been 19 years since I'd discovered the salvagers recover bottles of ale. And a New Titanicas part of a French-American team. York couple had even plunked down on Titanic's I'd come back to see how she'd changed. bow in a submersible to be married. It was all I knew that a private salvage company, RMS such a comedy-exactly what I had hoped Titanic, tnc., had dived on her manytimes,legally would not happen. (Continued on page 108) IOO NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC . DECEMBBR 2OO4
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