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Titanic Exploration

Anatoly Sagalevitch of the former Soviet Union has headed the Russian deep submersible exploration program since before the MIR’s were built and introduced to the Keldysh in 1988. In 1991 the MIR’s were fitted with 70mm IMAX film cameras and advanced deep lighting systems for a feature IMAX presentation in-depth film of the wreck site. Since then the Keldysh has made 8 expeditions out to the wreck site. As senior pilot Sagalevitch and Evgeny ‘Genya’ Cherniev have become the worlds most foremost and experienced Titanic explorers. It must be said that neither
Genya inside MIR2 June 2003
Evgeny 'Genya' Cherniev
in MIR 2 June 2003
would have such status had it not been for the incredible team that works together aboard the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh to launch and recover the submersibles from the mother ship itself. In 1995 filmmaker James Cameron converged with the Russians to produce the 1998 motion picture Titanic, the largest grossing film of all time. In 2001 Cameron and his team returned to Titanic with the Russians to produce the 3D motion IMAX picture ‘Ghosts of the Abyss’. Using cameras specially designed by Vince Pace and ROV’s by Jim’s brother Mike Cameron the team were able to make the first true penetrations deep into the wreck to bring back images that had never been seen before.
tiny bot
Fibre optic ROV used for serious penetration during the Ghosts of the Abyss expedition / Lori Johnston
Using fibre optics the small ROV’s were able to explore inside cabins along D deck and into the deep forward cargo holds where an automobile was loaded. Working on the Ghosts project Cameron employed Titanic historians Don Lynch and Ken Marshal whose expertise proved second to none when it came to navigating the tiny bots (ROV’s) through the wreckage. The results of this advanced Titanic expedition is available in the Ghosts of the Abyss hardback publication as well as at IMAX theatres and DVD. Titanic's wreck was originally discovered by Dr Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Sept 1985.
Ballard worked on the project with a French team – headed by IFREMER oceanographer Jean-Louis Michel and operations leader Jean Larry. Through painstaking research Michel had determined the approx. position where the wreck probably lay. At the institute Francais de Recherche pour l’Exploitation des Mers (IFREMER) the French Navy’s Oceanographic agency scientists developed advanced sonar side san capabilities and constructed a large unmanned, deep-towed submersible device to explore the wreck should they find it. Fitted with state of the art video and lighting systems they would work with the Americans during the summer of 1985 in search of the Titanic.
The side scan sonar device known as SAR would be towed 600ft above the ocean seabed and scan search areas in passes three-fifths of a mile wide, the team would analyze high resolution images of black and white frames of the ocean seabed. A separate magnetometer would distinguish between rocks and metal objects as they observed the seabed. Once the wreck was located the plan was to then use the Americans video based search system, under a U.S. navy grant to photograph the wreck. During July/ August of 1985 21 days were spent in heavy sea conditions searching for the wreck with no sign. Eventually geologist Dr. Robert Ballard resorted to a visual search of the seabed which again then went on for another 14 days examining nothing but endless images of sand dunes and rat tailed fish. Titanic was eventually discovered as time began to run out towards the tail end of the planed expedition, in the early hours of September 1 a monitor in the control room began to display images of one of Titanic’s giant boilers fallen from the liner as she sank. The wreck had been lost in total darkness 12,460ft below the North Atlantic for 73 years, as pieces of wreckage became visible on the monitor aboard the research vessel Knorr, Michel watched in awe as the first images of Titanic began to unfold. A crew member instantly called for Ballard who was asleep in his cabin to inform him of the dramatic discovery.
Dr Robert Ballard sees argo into the Atlantic ocean in 1985
Argo is launched during the search for Titanic
photo Emory Kristof
On a clam night as the stars shone above the team members assembled on the stern hoisted a white star flag as a tribute to the once great ship and her lost passengers. The following days were spent photographing and filming the wreck which was discovered to be upright on the seabed although broken in two sections almost 2000ft apart. The bow section on impact of the seabed had driven itself into the mud bottom and lodged itself deep almost up to the anchor line in height. To acquire more detailed images of the site the team utilised an Acoustically Navigated Geophysical underwater survey system which weighed in excess of 2 tons. The system abbreviated as ANGUS was equipped with 35mm colour cameras which in turn took over 12,000 images over three separate dives. The images taken showed an area of almost a square mile of littered debris from the wreck including artefacts such as porcelain navigational equipment huge lumps of coal thrown from the boiler rooms bottles of wine and stained glass windows.
Dr. Robert Ballard returned to the wreck the following summer with a team of 56 personal aboard the US Navy’s vessel Atlantis II. This time the team used a more sophisticated imaging tool a 28-inch long, tethered, robotic deep exploration vessel called Jason Jr. The team were able to operate the ROV known as Jason Jr. from the three man titanium submersible Alvin. Over a period of 12 days the team made 11 manned dives to the wreck and using the advanced ROV were able to penetrate the grand staircase the first few decks where images of broken Chandeliers still hung in position. All told the team explored the bridge section of the wreck the entire foredeck and the huge holes where the funnels were once positioned. They could peer into stately quarters which once occupied millionaires; across the seabed they could see everyday objects.

High def image from the Ghosts of the Abyss 2001 filming project
Double bed deep inside Titanic photo Earthship 2001
15 years later James Cameron’s ROV’s in 2001 were so advanced and so sophisticated that they could be operated by careful hands to penetrate deeper and further inside the wreck than anyone had done before. Like Ballard Cameron did not disturb the wreck site neither did he or his team recover or attempt to recover any of Titanic’s Artifacts that lay scattered across the Atlantic Ocean floor. In Ghost of the Abyss by Ken Marshal & Don Lynch Cameron admits to his own working habits and performs best in ‘Crisis’ mode (which on occasions ‘Genya’ solved) and that for him everything else is ‘sleepwalking’.
He always sets his goals above what can be achieved, anything less may make him stop once his goal is reached. By setting his sights too high he has a better chance of reaching the limits of his abilities.
Ultimate Titanic exploration -DI


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