Could a camera & its photos ever be recovered?

Rich Hayden

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Jul 17, 2014
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Presumably there were passengers with cameras who continued taking photographs on the ship after Francis Browne left at Queenstown.

If these cameras were ever recovered from the debris field, is it possible that the images might've survived? It's a long shot, admittedly, but some of the preservation down there has been remarkable.
 
May 3, 2005
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I think the answer would be "No".
(Just guessing) : All of those cameras used negative type film and I think any "latent image" on the film would have been "erased" by the sea water and the intense pressure at the depths of the wreck. Most of those cameras were flimsy "Kodak box cameras" or ones with flexible bellows and they would have been crushed to a little blob of mush.I think this was done to some ping-pong balls or something of that sort on a previous dive.The only way they might have been saved would have been to have been placed in a heavy metal safe, heavy enough to stand the pressure, hermetically sealed enough to pevent an explosion or inplosion and water tight enough to prevent water damage...IMHO.

To an an amateur photo hobbyist this is an interesting question.
There are lots of experts in all kinds of fields on this website and maybe they have some better answers.
Jim Currie, Samuel Halpern at al....Any comments, opinions, views, etc.on the subject at hand ???

P.S. If I was a camera buff in 1912, I think I would have asked Father Browne if I could join him ,
trail around with him and take pictures.....Trail around as "Richard Ward Sturges" said "At a respectable distance". LOL
I haven't seen any pictures taken after Titanic left Queenstown ???
 
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There were no doubt at least some other persons taking pictures on Titanic between Southampton and Queenstown besides Francis Browne.
And taking pictures after Titanic left Queenstown.
But I wonder if any survivors picked up their cameras and took them with them in the lifeboats ?
But I image the cameras would have been the last things they would think of saving ?
But the question is ?
Did any of them do this ?
Of course today you could just slip your digital camera or 35 mm SLR into your overcoat pockets , but those old Kodak's were a bit bulkier and you would have to carry them in your hands.
 
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Is there any reality to the sequence in the 1997 "Titanic" movie showing the safe being recovered, opened, etc.
And " the drawing " recovered in all the slime and silt, etc. ........ Such as a safe actually being recovered, and if so if photos, film, cameras with any images would have been recovered ?
 
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Aaron_2016

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I believe something similar did happen. They opened the purser's safe and televised what they found inside.

Skip to 1 hour and 10 minutes. (opening the satchel)
Skip to 1 hour and 17 minutes. (opening the safe)

.
 
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No camera or film could survive that depth, not only that, but the dryplates in use back then actually contained gelatin (modern film still does) gelatin is vital to most marine life and as such, all photos have probably been eaten by fish.
 
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There were no doubt at least some other persons taking pictures on Titanic between Southampton and Queenstown besides Francis Browne.
And taking pictures after Titanic left Queenstown.
But I wonder if any survivors picked up their cameras and took them with them in the lifeboats ?
But I image the cameras would have been the last things they would think of saving ?
But the question is ?
Did any of them do this ?
Of course today you could just slip your digital camera or 35 mm SLR into your overcoat pockets , but those old Kodak's were a bit bulkier and you would have to carry them in your hands.
My camera can go into a bridge coat or even a waistcoat pocket no problem, but it hasn't always been like that.
 
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Is there any information on what type of camera, film , etc. Browne was using ?

My two main "off job/off duty" hobbies are .:
(1) Photography- Everything from old Kodak 116 film box camera to Kodak M580 digital camera.
(2) Radio - Licensed Amateur Radio Operator - Everything from a Heathkit AT-1 transmitter to a Kenwood TM-281 transceiver.

That's why I find Francis Browne, Harold Bride and Jack Phillips such interesting subjects.
 
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Harland Duzen

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Is there any information on what type of camera, film , etc. Browne was using ?
I heard Browne had a 1911 Kodak "Vest Pocket" Camera.

Tom Lynskey (of T:H&G) owns a 1913 version of Browne's camera which is apparently the same except for having 1913 instead of 1911 stamped on it's casing.
 
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Aaron_2016

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The Titanic's cargo manifest has some interesting items. Wonder if they're still down there in the cargo hold.

1 case of photos - Pitt and Scott
1 case of films - NY Motion Picture Company
6 cases of films - American Express Company
3 cases of cameras and stands - American Express Company
1 case of films - Richard C.B.
3 cases of prints - American Express Company
1 case of canvas - American Express Company
1 case of Edison gramophones - American Express Company


.
 
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I heard Browne had a 1911 Kodak "Vest Pocket" Camera.

Tom Lynskey (of T:H&G) owns a 1913 version of Browne's camera which is apparently the same except for having 1913 instead of 1911 stamped on it's casing.
One question i have, kinda off-topic though, is where did all this "Vest pocket" advertising come from? i've held folding cameras before and can conform, they do not fit into my waistcoat's pocket, am i missing something?
 
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I found some information on these.
Coincidentally the information said that Kodak manufactured these from 1912 to 1935, so they must have been the latest thing to have on the Titanic.They used the smaller 127 size roll film which seems like it might have been the foreunner of 35mm film.Kodak also advertised a special wooden tank for "DIY's" to developthe film. And they appear to be miniature bellows type cameras that were really fold up types that really would fit in a vest pocket.......about the size of some of today's compact cameras.
 
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The Titanic's cargo manifest has some interesting items. Wonder if they're still down there in the cargo hold.

1 case of photos - Pitt and Scott
1 case of films - NY Motion Picture Company
6 cases of films - American Express Company
3 cases of cameras and stands - American Express Company
1 case of films - Richard C.B.
3 cases of prints - American Express Company
1 case of canvas - American Express Company
1 case of Edison gramophones - American Express Company


.
There is a scene in the 1997 "Titanic" movie where a hand cranked movie camera was being used on the promenade deck.Again , was this something from real life on Titanic ?
 
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Aaron_2016

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Not sure, but there was a similar scene in the 1979 film SOS Titanic when Mr. And Mrs. Harris bump into a man filming with a camera on a tripod stand. I believe there were several journalists aboard including the world famous Mr. Stead. I wonder if he was taking notes during the evacuation and writing down what the captain and officers were saying and jotting down the times and the statements made by the passengers. I believe the wireless operators were kept very busy during the voyage as they had so many private messages from the passengers to deliver about the ship and what a wonderful time they were having, so in a sense, social media was around, even on the Titanic. I recall one expedition to the wreck which showed the mail room and it was filled with many mail sacks which were still sealed up and covered with light debris. Wish they could raise the mail and examine the letters. No doubt they contain photographs and postcards, possibly taken aboard the ship.
 
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Rich Hayden

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Jul 17, 2014
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Thank you for the replies. I think it's an interesting question: whether any images from a camera could be retrieved from the debris field. The gut instinct is obviously 'no' but Arthur Peuchen's wallet is, for me, the ultimate artifact. Imagine it: his wallet fell as he scrambled down the falls to lifeboat No. 6 and was retrieved from the sea floor over 70 years later. It's almost literally beyond belief but it happened, much like the survival of Henry Harper's bowler hat. You wouldn't think it possible - but there it is.

This is a long quote from another post on here that I came across just today. It's got some relevance anyway:

"You might be interested in this. Some years ago I had some meetings with M.I.T and Eastman Kodak about old nitrate movie film. It was in researching Mr. Harbecks filming while on board. They both agreed that if he put the exposed film in film tins and taped them as most photographers do, Then as the ship sank the seal would have held for a time. At the bottom at 6,000+ pounds pressure per square inch the film inside the cans would have compressed itself very tightly on itself at the hub of the reel. Much like the inner pages of a book when immersed remain dry. So the theory was some of the film 'may' have stayed dry thanks to the pressure. Only problem how do you get it up maintaining that protective pressure? If you design a box to put the film in and recover it with that pressure then who is going to open the box? If the pressure is released then the film will loosen and no longer be dry. Plus as you know nitrate film is a wee bit flammable."

and

"As I said Kodak and MIT delved into this study and figures there might be a 60 percent or a little better chance that some images could be recovered at the very core of the film. Like you said after what has been found one wonders what else lies in wait for us to discover. I have always said that the deeper into the ship you go the better the chances of preservation"

WRECK OUTTAKES from GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS

One thing I'm constantly reminded of is that the wreck of the Titanic constantly surprises us.
 

Harland Duzen

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Found this a few days ago that might be of some interest to everyone here:

Titanic Lost films (The Sun, April 19th 1912, Page 6 Image 6).png

Taken from: The Sun, April 19th 1912, Page 6
 
May 3, 2005
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Some more camera trivia :
I've been searching but haven't found the information yet , but Kodak had a camera ca. 1952 .which was available in two models, both of the same size and the same appearance , but there was a .choice of the film used in the cameras,. Either 35 mm or 127 roll film. Perhaps someone knows why ?

In those days if you used Kodachrome film , it had to be mailed to a Kodak processing lab .
There was also an Ecktachrome (spelling ?) Color film.It was also available in an infra-red version for use with special filters.

Lens settings, aperture settings and focus settings for various distances was manual for these cameras.
So most photographers had both .exposure meters to set the shutter speed and aperture and a range finder to set the focus.

But getting back Browne and Titanic. I understand he was quite an avid and somewhat expert amateur photographer. Is it known whether he used these with his camera or just took them "point and shoot" since all of his pictures seem so well exposed and focused ?
 

IanMcD

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Jun 9, 2013
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Poulsbo, WA
I'm no expert on this matter but I imagine the answer is almost certainly no. I would think that it is highly probable that photos were taken during the trip, perhaps even some film footage. But sadly they are certainly lost forever in all likelihood.

I had the same question about the Lusitania as there are accounts of photos being taken during the sinking. Unfortunately, none of these have turned up.