Rob Ballard's 1985 wreck footage?


Paul Lee

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Yes all the still and footage are retained by Woods Hole. Roy Mengot is one of the few to have viewed the material for his wreck model. His website has gone, but I think it was difficult to get access to.
 
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If you can get your hands on Ballard's 2004 book "Return to Titanic", you can get a good sense of the deterioration of the wreck in the first two decades after its discovery. It's only still images, of course, but it was a subject at the center of Ballard's focus.
 

Paul Lee

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Ballard's contention is that a lot of the damage has been due to human interference, but others say it is mother nature. I did a photo comparison of the few areas of the wreck that had photos released in 2005 and 2010 to see what had happened. Of course, between these years, no human visited the wreck
so we can say that any deterioration was due to nature's hand. Its hard to make a determination as very few comparison images of the port side, or
aft of the 1st class passenger cabins on the boat deck have been released. Ignoring these areas, there doesn't seem to have been much deterioration; certainly the foremast which we all expected to have gone seems to be in the same position as it was in 2005. My findings are at http://www.paullee.com/titanic/2005to2010.php - you'll need to have Javascript to allow the Ajax functionality to work; then just click on the red boxes on the image of the ship
to see 2005 and 2010 images.
 

turricaned

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There was footage taken and as far as I know, it's only available (Legally) on the specials which National Geographic produced or licensed the footage to.

As part of the channel's Titanic coverage, they've posted the original 1987 "Secrets Of The Titanic" documentary for streaming. It's missing Martin Sheen's narration, but the wreck footage is complete in comparison to the DVD release. The footage itself is mostly of the 1986 Alvin/Jason Jr. expedition, but some of the 1985 Argo footage is shown briefly.

Secrets of the Titanic -- Titanic: 100 Years -- National Geographic Channel

Caveat : I don't know how long it'll be up for.

@Paul Lee - There's obviously going to be some speculation about how much of the deterioration is natural vs. man-made, but judging by the 2010 images coming back, I'd say Ballard has a point about the sub damage around the Grand Staircase entrance, where the Boat Deck has now completely collapsed onto the Promenade Deck towards the rear of the bow section. I'm also inclined to agree with him about the mast damage being substantially accelerated by the antics of the 1987 RMSTI/IFREMER expedition (specifically pulling the masthead light off).
 

Paul Lee

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I respectfully disagree. The mast light was gently pulled from the foremast, not yanked off so I don't see how this could affect the rest of the mast. The mast collapsed sometime between 2001 and 2004, which is considerably after 1987.
 

turricaned

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I respectfully disagree. The mast light was gently pulled from the foremast, not yanked off so I don't see how this could affect the rest of the mast. The mast collapsed sometime between 2001 and 2004, which is considerably after 1987.

You're welcome to disagree, but I don't see how you can "gently pull" something that has been bolted on strongly enough that it resisted the Labrador Current for 75 years and have it come off. In any case, RMSTI's remit was for the debris field alone - they shouldn't have been anywhere near the bow or stern section while salvaging. Ballard has his position, RMSTI/IFREMER has theirs and the truth is we won't know unless someone tells us.

The mast itself was likely bent backwards by hydrodynamic pressure during the sinking, and note carefully that I did *not* say that the 1987 crew bent the mast to the current position while retrieving it (although the crow's nest *did* disappear in 1987, which makes me suspicious about how careful they were). To remove the light required bending the mast in the opposite direction to the way it had fallen and lain for 75 years - that *could* have hastened the metal fatigue inside the mast and hastened the eventual collapse in 2001.
 

Eric Paddon

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Ballard never gets his stories straight regarding the crow's nest. First he insisted in print with bold assurance that the crows nest was destroyed in the act of getting the telephone, but no telephone was recovered from the crow's nest (the phone recovered by RMSTI was from the debris field and it was the stern bridge phone), then this became in the act of getting the bell, which was also not recovered from the crows nest (and Ballard's own 1985 wreck pictures show that no bell or phone was still inside it). Removal of the mast light was not responsible for what happened to the crow's nest, and I find it amazing no one can just admit that we were fortunate we could still see it in 85 when it likely only had two years left by then. If we'd found the wreck thirty years earlier, there undoubtedly would have been more things still visible that were gone by 1985!
 

turricaned

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(and Ballard's own 1985 wreck pictures show that no bell or phone was still inside it).

The 1985 pictures were from Argo - there's no way you'd have been able to see what was inside the crow's nest. Unless you really mean the 1986 footage, in which case, again the shots were at the wrong angle to see inside. Ballard had no reason to lie, and if the telephone was exhibited before the masthead light it was a reasonable assumption to make on his part.

Removal of the mast light was not responsible for what happened to the crow's nest, and I find it amazing no one can just admit that we were fortunate we could still see it in 85 when it likely only had two years left by then. If we'd found the wreck thirty years earlier, there undoubtedly would have been more things still visible that were gone by 1985!

I'm impressed that you can be so sure. Given the lack of concrete evidence either way, and whatever your opinion of Dr. Ballard, surely he is as entitled to the benefit of the doubt as RMSTI? The fact is that the worst deterioration is around the areas that have seen human activity post-1985, and there's no getting away from that. Don't get me wrong, I used to be farily pro-salvage - but having seen the NMM exhibition in the '90s and the Luxor exhibition a few months ago, I have to say I think we've got enough in the way of artifacts, and as such the "look but don't touch" policy is looking like the best way to preserve the site for as long as possible.

It's worth remembering that Ballard himself was initially tempted by the idea of salvage, but his experience talking to survivors led to the position he has taken and been consistent on since 1986.
 

Eric Paddon

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The 1985 pictures were from Argo - there's no way you'd have been able to see what was inside the crow's nest.

The famous Argo close-up of the crow's nest that ran in National Geographic in December 1985 is the image I'm talking about. This is the one I might add where Ballard referred to the opening for the crewmen to enter as the "receptacle for the telephone". It is patently obvious there is no bell and no phone in there.

As for Ballard having no reason to lie, I beg to differ. He had every reason to lie or distort for the sake of sullying the reputations of the salvagers and burnishing his image as the man who supposedly treated the wreck with such great dignity, when of course he was the one who had been saying to Congress artifact salvage was all right before the 87 expedition. This Congressional testimony I would note is something he never bothered to inform any of the readers of his books about.

I have also over the years heard people claim that there was video footage of Nautile destroying the crow's nest that RMSTI suppressed, when no such footage existed. These same individuals even said incriminating video was visible in the 1987 "Return To The Titanic" special when it wasn't. Then we were told Ralph White could verify that the nest was destroyed. White said that wasn't so.

I respect Ballard as an explorer who found the wreck, but as a human being he is one of the most dishonest and dishonorable people I have ever seen associated with the Titanic.
 

turricaned

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I remember that December 1985 issue of National Geographic well. I didn't get to read it until 1989 (it turned out my primary school's library had a copy of it, as well as the December 1986 issue with the Alvin/Jason Jr. expedition write-up - both of which I devoured at the age of 11 and then reluctantly put back, despite being pretty sure that no-one would miss them). In 1985, Ballard had no sense of scale - which is not dishonest, merely a result of the images being taken from a mobile camera platform over 2 miles beneath the research vessel. First and foremost, Ballard was a scientist - and while he was fairly knowledgeable on Titanic, he was not what we would call a "rivet counter" today. I don't think he was "dishonest" so much as working with what little information he had - you also need to factor in the fact that the Titanic expedition was merely the cover and propaganda tool - what he had actually been asked to do was photograph the USS Thresher and Scorpion.

So, we fast-forward to 1986 and the second expedition, where they take Alvin down and use Jason Jr. to take internal pictures of the wreck. Again this was a cover for further expeditions to Thresher and Scorpion. A little-known contemporary UK documentary called "Titanic : The Nightmare And The Dream" actually includes Ballard ruminating on the possibility of salvaging some objects, and his eventual decision not to do so - which was bolstered by his later meetings with Titanic survivors. True, they rotated the handle on the safe in the debris field, and knocked some rusticles off with the ROV, but by and large Ballard's assertion that he interfered with the wreck as little as possible seems to be borne out by the evidence.

The late Ralph White, may he rest in peace, clearly had different ideas to Ballard regarding interfering with the wreck , as evidenced in the IMAX Titanica documentary, so I don't see the point of bringing him into this.

Ultimately Ballard was the first person to find her, and the first person to visit her in person. That his position and his assertions varied between 1985 and 1987 are entirely understandable. When he took Alvin down, he required a giant subsidy from the US Navy to do so, and I can entirely understand his disgust with the 1987 expedition, which essentially took advantage of his decision not to salvage anything and damaged the wreck in the process.
 

Eric Paddon

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Just for the record, I didn't bring Ralph White into this. Other people (I won't name names, but long-time members of this place will know right away who I mean) brought him into it during the height of acrimony in Titanic circles about what happened to the crow's nest just to buttress their claims about how evil the salvage teams were. It was part of a long-standing pattern of making accusations about all kinds of horrible destruction caused by the salvage teams starting in 1987 and echoing charges first leveled by Ballard that turned out to be not true and it was shameful of Ballard to put that accusation about destroying the crows nest "undoubtedly" to get at the telephone in print in a book without having bothered to do meaningful research on whether that was true or not. His "disgust" over the 1987 expedition as far as I'm concerned was phony sanctimony of the first order which he thought gave him a right to lie and smear those who were responsible for it and demean the work they did in bringing the Titanic back to the world of the living.

Long-standing members of this place have also seen me vent a good deal about Ballard over the years, and for their sake, I won't turn this into another long drawn out spat regarding him. Suffice to say, I think any man who so freely accused others of being "insensitive grave robbers" and evil people "only out for money and fame", when in fact *he* was the one who for years was the #1 publicity and camera hog when it came to glomming off the fame of being "the man who found the Titanic" (even to the point of minimizing the role played by IFREMER I might add) and earning cushy lecture fees and book deals in the process (while in the meantime, the likes of George Tulloch just went about their tasks in total anonymity and adding more to our knowledge of the ship than Ballard did in an eighteen year span) is a first-class hypocrite. The apologies Ballard owes to a lot of people for his public comments over the years could fill a book, but I long ago refused to start holding my breath that he'd ever be man enough to start making them.
 

turricaned

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(while in the meantime, the likes of George Tulloch just went about their tasks in total anonymity and adding more to our knowledge of the ship than Ballard did in an eighteen year span)

Bullshit.

The late George Tulloch (who I will not denigrate because he is no longer with us) was the frontman and spokesperson for RMSTI from the get-go. I have the 1987 documentary on VHS in which he is front-and-centre pushing his arguments for salvage. To imply that he was simply working in anonymity while Ballard made money from speaking engagements is a flat-out lie.

Prior to 1987, Ballard was quite happy to share credit for the discovery with IFREMER and Jean-Louis Michel. It was the 1987 Tulloch/Nargeolet expedition that soured him on the relationship and frankly I don't blame him. Nargeolet himself was responsible for some of the more blatant speculation about the wreck site that was later proved incorrect (being a major proponent of the debunked "coal bunker explosion" theory in 1996), and he was on the Cameron programme the other day proving that he has learned very little.
 

Eric Paddon

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Sorry, but that's not a lie. I never saw Tulloch do gigs on Johnny Carson or the morning talk shows (if we want to talk about liars, when Ballard says that he didn't talk to the press after returning from the 85 expedition and having his one press conference as he does in the 1986 National Geographic documentary, that is a lie. I have him on tape making the rounds of the news shows AFTER that), or attach his face to the end of a network TV entertainment program (as Ballard did on "Seaquest DSV" for a whole year), or always introduce himself in every other project he did as "I'm the man who found the Titanic". In fact I never even ONCE saw him front and center on an interview program of any kind until about 1997, more than a decade after artifact salvage was underway. Compared to the exposure Ballard sought and gave himself, Tulloch was an anonymous figure with the public in that era, yet there was Ballard the guy throwing rocks and saying the RMSTI were doing what they did not because of their love for the Titanic but because they wanted "personal glory". The only BSer has been Robert Ballard from the get-go.
 

Jake Peterson

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I remember when the news hit about the third piece being discovered, he was quoted as saying, and I'm paraphrasing here: "They found another piece. So what? There's probably lots of wreackage down there. It's a debris field."

I remember thinking that was sort of a cocky attitude to have. But I don't know the man personally, so I can only judge from what I read about him. I do have his book about his finding and exploring the Titanic, but other than that, I haven't kept up on his latest expeditions.
 

Paul Lee

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A few points.

The Labrador Current is a surface current, not an abyssal one.

While Nargeolet might once have thought of the coal fire explosion as a valid theory, he more or less repudiated it (in fact, going so far as to
state that the starboard hole was due to impact damage, rather than due to an explosion - see "Explorers of the Titanic" c.1995 (?))

Ballard's arrogance is not just confined to the wreck. Remember when he was introduced to Marshal Drew, Titanic Survivor. All Ballard
could say was "Oh, thats nice," and then turned his back on the elderly gentleman to talk to someone else.

Ralph White's comments that he wishes that Ballard had given more credit to those on his team when the Titanic was found has made
White a target for Ballard lovers. He has been accused of stealing the Ballard plaque on the stern, but those on the expeditions he was
involved in deny this.

Ballard's comments for "Nightmare and the Dream" do not discuss the ethical scruples around salvage. He could have said, "Salvage is immoral,
please regard the Titanic as a memorial." The Nightmare and Dream interview was done sometime in the summer of 1986. This is what he
said about taking items from the debris field: "Its sort of like opening Pandora's box. Once you do it, its done. Once you begin, were do you stop?
I'm a collector of [intelligible]. I wouldn't love nothing more than to have a wine bottle from the Titanic, but I think (emphasis) I'm not going to
do it. We're going to see." (Laughs).
- No mention of ethics at all. From what I can determine, and maybe Eric can back me up on this. Ballard did not become anti-salvage until 1987
when the French announced their salvage expedition.

Finally:
What is the "White Star" contract as mentioned in this video at 5.00 minutes in?
Titanic Discovery -September 1985 - YouTube
- some have speculated that it incorporated a private slush fund for sale of photos and videos to the media.
 

Paul Lee

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Another thing to point out: remember the two part A&E documentary from the early 1990s? Ballard said that when they were both at the wrecksite,
he and Michel were so moved that they agreed not to salvage anything from the wreck, and he compared it to "Gettysburg....the Badlands...."
Compare that to Ballard's late 1985 statements where he said that he supported salvage and items should go into a museum!
 

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