‘Her resting place is threatened’

Robert Ballard, credited with the discovery of the Titanic, makes a documentary retracing the ship’s origins in Ireland and says he wants her to rest in peace for another 100 years.

entertainment Updated: Mar 27, 2012 13:03 IST
Rachana Dubey
Rachana Dubey
Hindustan Times

When did you set out to discover the Titanic? What intrigued you? I always wanted to find the Titanic. At that time, it was regarded as the epitome of all discoveries. My interest in finding the ship began as early as the 1970s, but the discovery happened when I was in the middle of a top secret navy mission in 1985. The US Navy showed some interest in submarines lost close to the Titanic. So we struck a deal where I would help them investigate the lost submarines while they allowed me to look for the vessel.

Also, our team was competing with the French, who had been at sea for months. So I only had a few days to find her. It was the change in our approach and constant persistence that eventually led us to the sighting on September 1, 1985.

But was there something specific that drew you to the ship?

I can’t make a check list of what intrigued me about the Titanic because there were way too many things. But I can say that the sheer mystery behind her tragic end that night and the fact that she was so elusive for decades got to me. I had to find out what really happened.

It is said that the ship’s faulty design was largely responsible for the disaster. I’m sorry, but the ship’s design was not faulty.
The Titanic was equipped with 16 watertight compartments, which had doors that would close automatically if the waters rose to a certain level. It was designed so that it could remain afloat even if some compartments were flooded. I discovered that when the Titanic collided with the iceberg. The first six compartments were flooded.

Lastly, do you think an hour-long documentary can encapsulate everything you’ve been through over the years when you were looking for the Titanic, and all that you’ve done since to preserve it?

I produced the documentary, Save The Titanic, to help people revisit the ship and her history in a different manner. I wanted to show it from the perspective of those who set sail on her some 100 years ago and also wanted to retrace her path to her very origins in Ireland.

But beyond this, I wanted to find an answer to a personal question — will the Titanic survive another 100 years? Besides natural forces, careless visitors and rogue salvage operations are threatening her final resting place. My endeavours are now directed to protect the legacy of history’s most famous ship. And I’ll do everything that I possibly can to let the Titanic rest in peace for another 100 years.

On Cameron’s Titanic
In James Cameron’s Titanic, there was a hunt for hidden treasure. was that your motivation to look for the shipwreck?
James Cameron’s Titanic is based on the fact that the ocean liner sank, but if you are referring to the Heart Of The Ocean necklace featured in the film, it is fictitious. The treasure we found was of a different kind. The remains that we collected without
disturbing her resting place speak volumes of her might and the tragedy that occurred that night in the middle of the sea.

Were you involved in the making of the Oscar-winning movie?
James is a friend and he constantly took my inputs during the making. Being a perfectionist, he wanted to ensure that the account he portrayed was true to the reality of the discovery. I also received the honour of attending the premiere of the film in 1997.

Save The Titanic will be aired as a special programme on the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15 on National Geographic channel.

First Published: Mar 27, 2012 12:57 IST