Rob Ballard's 1985 wreck footage?


Eric Paddon

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- 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.

Honestly, it's like navigating through a minefield to get a grip on Ballard and salvage in this period when you factor in (1) what he was saying before TV cameras during the 1985 and 1986 expeditions (2) what he said to Congress in late 1985 (3) what he claims in documentaries about when he was changing his mind. What you get collectively is a picture of massive inconsistency.

Let's start with what he was saying in TV interviews from the wreck site in 1985 and just after he returned, all of which I recorded when the wreck was found, and which I watched probably dozens of times in the months following to the point where I could almost memorize them (and I still have them today safely transferred to DVD). In ALL of these interviews he is sounding anti-salvage and is pushing the "gravesite" argument, though the only and I mean only caveat you can attach to this is that sometimes the responses are to questions about raising the ship, which in the rush of the moment after discovery some people were wildly speculating about when the nature of the wreck's condition was not fully apparent. In his TV interview on CBS after he returns where he's sitting with Louise Pope, he then argues that it would be better to send a robot inside the Grand Staircase than to take up pieces of it (starting his fascination with the dubious notion that teleportation is somehow a valid substitute for serious historic preservation).

Then suddenly two months later away from TV cameras and before Congress, he's singing a different tune about how he supports artifact salvage. And I have to be honest, the day I ceased to believe Ballard was a man of integrity was when I learned about this testimony for the first time in the early 90s. Up to then, I always thought he was being a man of principle about salvage even when I opposed him, because I was basing that on his 1985 TV interviews. To find out that he was reversing course before Congress, away from TV cameras, and never bothering to mention this testimony ONCE in any of the public interviews or in his books that appeared afterwards indicated that something fishy was going on here and that Ballard's "don't touch" statements in 1985 and then again in 1986 from the wreck site had to be seen in a different light.

I believe it wasn't until years later that it was clarified that Ballard *couldn't* salvage artifacts since he was working in effect on the taxpayers dime in both the 1985 and 1986 expeditions and thus could not legitimately claim any salvage rights to the Titanic to let Woods Hole control the matter of artifact preservation. If that was the case, then Ballard's public pronouncements were a case of taking the "sensitive" portrayal to mask the real reason that he couldn't have done so at the time, but privately, his statements to Congress revealed that yes, he would have liked to have seen it done under conditions that would naturally have allowed his organization to have done so.

But of course by 1987, we then had IFREMER, his former partners taking part in salvage operations and in effect beating Ballard from ever being able to do it, and of course from that point on, Ballard basically declared permanent war on the whole concept of salvage and wrapped himself up in the mantle of nobility on this point, and in light of the fact that *every* TV interview he gave in 1985 and 1986 had him publicly toeing this line it was a very easy fallback position for him. Why bother to consult what he said before Congress in a hearing C-SPAN didn't cover and for which there is no videotape of (especially if you're left with no clue this testimony ever existed if you go by "Discovery Of The Titanic") when every TV interview of him that's available from all three networks show otherwise? Ballard had set himself up perfectly and knew how to play to the media effectively and they ate up everything he said like it was ice cream. The image of Ballard-pure noble saint, RMSTI and salvagers-evil graverobbers was fast cemented in the popular media mindset and he's ran on that narrative ever since.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Just a couple of points to ponder:

1) People can have a change of heart on matters such as this and apparantly, Dr. Ballard did.

2) Regardless of how he may actually feel or what his genuine motivations might be, is there anything about the man's present day stated opinions and public stands which are invalid?

Why or why not?

Finally, with my moderator's hat on: Please tread lightly with any accusations you may be tempted to throw around, as some of this may come back to haunt you if Attila the Lawyer shows up at your door with a summons to appear. (It's called "Libel" and you don't want to go there.)
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Criticism of a public figure is "libel?" Not according to the Constitution last time I checked. <<

1) This website is based out of Great Britain and is subject to all the laws of the United Kingdom as well as any international agreements which the United Kingdom is a party to. In other words, the Constitution of the United States of America has no legal standing or force here.

2) Even in the United States where the Constitution does apply, laws exist on the books where libel can be asserted in a civil action. See your lawyer about that.

3) I don't care much about whether you love or hate Dr. Ballard. I'm well aware that he has supporters and detractors but this really misses the point. The point being that you're resorting to ad hominum attack rather then address the question of whether or not Dr. Ballard's views as they currently stand are, in anybody's opinion, either correct or incorrect.

In other words, attack the message if you have issues with it. Not the messenger.
 

Eric Paddon

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I utterly reject the notion that what I said was "ad homenim". I addressed the matter of the chronology of Ballard's views on salvage, and they do reveal inconsistency of the first order. If I choose to then register my own personal view of Ballard because of his actions, those are expressed as my own opinion and have been so clearly stated and in any society with any regard for the concept of free speech, that is recognized as duly protected commentary. The idea that a civil action for a dubious concept of "libel" could result from a message board posting is probably the most laughable thing I've ever seen, and make me wonder if I've stepped back in time to the days of Eric Payne.

Oh well, I guess it was just a waste of my time to come back here and think that on the 100th anniversary of the sinking I could finally reconnect with the world of Titanic discussion. Instead, I have to get a reminder of just why I grew distant from it in the first place. Better that I now consign it to the past forever. Sayonara, I am out of here for good.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I utterly reject the notion that what I said was "ad homenim".<<

Eric, I can't say as I much care what you accept or reject. The nature of your posts makes it all about the person of Dr. Ballard rather then about the issues which he raises. Demonizing somebody you disagree with is the sort of nonsense I expect to see in politics but I would hope I could expect much better of the people here, especially of somebody with your obvious intelligence.

>>I addressed the matter of the chronology of Ballard's views on salvage, and they do reveal inconsistency of the first order.<<

What of it? It shows that like a lot of us, he's had opinions, he's changed his opnions, and also like a lot of us, is conflicted about his opinions. None of that has any bearing whatever on whether or not his current stand as expressed is the morally correct one!

Is it or is it not? C'mon, by all means, address the question. You're a smart guy. You can do it.

>>The idea that a civil action for a dubious concept of "libel" could result from a message board posting is probably the most laughable thing I've ever seen, and make me wonder if I've stepped back in time to the days of Eric Payne.<<

Don't laugh too hard. We ended up in some very hot legal water over exactly that issue a couple of years ago, and as a consequence, we've become very sensitive to the issue. Message boards and their members are NOT immune to lawsuits.
 
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Rusty_S

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What about Ballards claims that the wreck site is being destoyed by tourist and that the wreck site is being littered with garabe, most of which by his definition includes him dropping all that ballast weight on the ocean floor as well as the three plaques he left on the wreck. But then after saying how we shoudlnt be landing on the deck due to it causing the collapse of the decks which he did himself he finally flipped in the interview stating that to preserve the wreck we shouldnt be touching it for fear of destorying it but at the same time we should touch it and risk destorying the wreck so we can clean the rust off and paint the wreck with special underwater paint used on super tankers to preserve the wreck for future generations.

When I read this last night I thought Ballard has lost his marbles. I suspected he was in it for the spot light and now with his flipflop interview I saw last night for the anniversary, I have to say he is inconsistant in his views and he wants to be the voice for the wreck and no one can go and see it in his eyes.
 

turricaned

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I can't believe some people are trying to lionise Tulloch and Nargeolet by dissing Ballard. Tulloch may have been less well-known than Ballard, but he was responsible for that god-awful, tacky, televisual freakshow hosted by Telly Savalas - that earns the RMSTI of 1987 and Tulloch himself an awful lot of demerits in my book.

Rusty_S : It's bleedin' obvious that sub damage has accelerated the collapse of the Boat Deck around the Grand Staircase. I'm conflicted on the cleaning/preservation angle, but I'm 100% with him on taking no more artifacts and disturbing the wreck as little as possible, if at all.
 

Rusty_S

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I can't believe some people are trying to lionise Tulloch and Nargeolet by dissing Ballard. Tulloch may have been less well-known than Ballard, but he was responsible for that god-awful, tacky, televisual freakshow hosted by Telly Savalas - that earns the RMSTI of 1987 and Tulloch himself an awful lot of demerits in my book.

Rusty_S : It's bleedin' obvious that sub damage has accelerated the collapse of the Boat Deck around the Grand Staircase. I'm conflicted on the cleaning/preservation angle, but I'm 100% with him on taking no more artifacts and disturbing the wreck as little as possible, if at all.

I didn't mean to imply the subs landing on the deck didn't damage the Titanic. I mean he's claiming people landing doing the damage but apparently not taking responsibility for the damage and "garbage" left behind.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I didn't mean to imply the subs landing on the deck didn't damage the Titanic. I mean he's claiming people landing doing the damage but apparently not taking responsibility for the damage and "garbage" left behind.<<

And he may be right. Expeditions find trash there all the time ranging from beer bottles to anchors used by submersibles. One of the AUV's used to do the sonar imaging and mapping of the entire wreck site was very nearly lost becuase it snagged one of these things.

Look, I'm not going to praise or damn the man. I really don't know enough about him or his personality to do so, but if he's right about something, then he's right. Let's give him his due credit for that. (Likewise, he can take his lumps along with the rest of us if he's mistaken.)
 

Rusty_S

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>>I didn't mean to imply the subs landing on the deck didn't damage the Titanic. I mean he's claiming people landing doing the damage but apparently not taking responsibility for the damage and "garbage" left behind.<<

And he may be right. Expeditions find trash there all the time ranging from beer bottles to anchors used by submersibles. One of the AUV's used to do the sonar imaging and mapping of the entire wreck site was very nearly lost becuase it snagged one of these things.

Look, I'm not going to praise or damn the man. I really don't know enough about him or his personality to do so, but if he's right about something, then he's right. Let's give him his due credit for that. (Likewise, he can take his lumps along with the rest of us if he's mistaken.)

Of course theres garbage in the form of beer bottles and cans, I recall that happening when they raised the big piece and they had that cruise ship out there with people watching. I also recall hearing that a good amount of that was from ships passing by not even visiting the wreck site.

It all well could be true or it could be from those visiting the wreck site. But I just find something strange about how hes trying to use a double standard. Everything hes saying that is destorying the wreck he did himself and for all we know the first time he landed on the boat deck and the top of the officers quarters could have been the very first of many dominos that started falling resulting in the deck collaspsing. Its hard to say but he could have got in good again with me if he would have admited that what he did left his marks on the wreck site as well and caused damage and that he doesnt condone it. But to say look but dont touch then in the same sentence talks about preservation that requires scrubbing the inside and outside of the wreck to paint it. It just doesnt sit well with me, I know I used to look up to the man and respect how he did things from Bismarck to Titanic but over time its like hes changed and cant make up his mind.

Aside from that to get back on topic I wonder if their ever going to release the wreck footage or at the very least all the wreck photographs reguardless of the quality. I kind of had my hopes up we would see something for the 100th Anniversary, but I guess not. Just like claims that high resoultion 2010 sonar mapping of the wreck site was to be released on the anniversary and I cant find no information on that either.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Don't overlook what I pointed out about that anchor which snagged that AUV. That garbage didn't come from passing ships, but from a submersible.

If one has an issue with an apparant double standard, that's all well and good but what I'm concerned with is a lot more straightforward: Is Dr Ballard's current position on these issues the correct one? Yes or no? Why or why not? It looks a lot to me like everybody is so intent on attacking either his consistancy or his morality that they're ignoring the core issue which is a lot more important then either Dr. Ballard is or we are.

Worse, nobody appears to be interested in addressing that simple question.
 

Rusty_S

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Don't overlook what I pointed out about that anchor which snagged that AUV. That garbage didn't come from passing ships, but from a submersible.

If one has an issue with an apparant double standard, that's all well and good but what I'm concerned with is a lot more straightforward: Is Dr Ballard's current position on these issues the correct one? Yes or no? Why or why not? It looks a lot to me like everybody is so intent on attacking either his consistancy or his morality that they're ignoring the core issue which is a lot more important then either Dr. Ballard is or we are.

Worse, nobody appears to be interested in addressing that simple question.

If you mean the garabe as in the ballast and plaques left behind and flowers then yes that garbage did come from submersibles. But now the beer bottles and soda cans, I dont see how that could have came from the submersible.

On the topic of Ballard though, to answer about his current position on issues if its correct or not, its dependant on the person. I say his current position that I see him giving of dont look, dont touch, dont visit to avoid destruction of the wreckage is not correct. I know Titanic wont last forever and will eventually one day be gone. I am all for exploration of the wreck deeper and deeper to learn as much about Titanic before she is gone for good. As far as taking items from the wreck site, I fully support artifacts that are unique and related to the Titanic that is not currently attached to the Titanic. The only exception to that would have been the marconi system I would have liked to see retreived. I still havent found a complete diagram of the system including wiring diagrams.

As far as the core issue that I believe that is at the front of all of this discussion is, "grave robbing" a grave site. I have to say that I dont really consider Titanic a grave site as much as I consider her the site of a disaster. When the Arizona was sunk and most of her crew died that didnt stop the US Navy from stripping everything useful off of her even though 90% of her crew died. Like wise we see airliners that crash are cleaned up and bodies recovered. The whole we shouldnt salvage or retreive items from Titanic cause its a grave site is kind of ironic considering the core of this is that its only like this with the Titanic. A guy I know he put it best I think. He asks people if Titanic is a grave site cause people died on her then a car crash that was deadly makes the car a grave site and the grave site was distrubed to clean the car off the road and hauled off to the junkyard. I am inclined to side with this view point cause while it is the site of many deaths I dont see why Titanic should be labeled as a gravesite when places like the WTC, and plane crashes and even the USS Arizona were sites of great loss of life but yet things were salvaged and recovered but I just dont see many people standing up in arms over those like they do when it comes to the Titanic.

Ballard's motives of preserving the wreck for future generations is admirable but she wont last forever and instead of spending lots of money on taking the risk of destroying the Titanic just to try and preserve her by painting her I think we could do a lot better to photograph her as much as possible till she is gone and use the photographs and video footage as a way to preserve the Titanic. Based off the latest Ive seen it appears the mast is fully gone and all of the deck house superstructure is gone as of now. You cant get that back but future generations can see this through photos and videos, most people wont even see Titanic in person and can only view photos and videos in the first place. So I say preserve Titanic through documentation and exploration, not through trying to preserve her by trying to stop the natural decay that started soon after she arrived on the ocean floor.
 
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>>But now the beer bottles and soda cans, I dont see how that could have came from the submersible.<<

They wouldn't have although it's possible that some careless crewman pitched a few over the side from an expedition base ship.

Thanks for addressing the core issue which I was inviting everybody to have a stab at. When you get down to it, it's that particular controversy which is the most important.
 

Rusty_S

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>>But now the beer bottles and soda cans, I dont see how that could have came from the submersible.<<

They wouldn't have although it's possible that some careless crewman pitched a few over the side from an expedition base ship.

Thanks for addressing the core issue which I was inviting everybody to have a stab at. When you get down to it, it's that particular controversy which is the most important.

I could go with that. I could believe that a careless crewman was leaning over the rail and just happened to slip a bottle or can out of his hand.

I figured might as well have atleast one address of the main issue, I dont want to sound like everyone else that is stabbing at Ballard for his flipflopping statements and view points and dont have an opinion on whats the deep meaning of what hes wanting to do. Its just with Ballard he is starting to sound a lot like another man that commanded respect in his field that is getting a bad name by being lawsuit happy. I think theres a fine line between being active at protecting the wreck and dictating what people should and shouldnt do.

Now I am curious as to what other people's opinion of the core meaning of what hes wanting to do.
 

Meikel

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I think that Ballard's idea to paint the wreck is ludicrous.
On first glance, the idea sounds tempting, but I really doubt that it is as easy as he apparently thinks it is.
He said, if I am not mistaken, that modern super tankers are painted by robots, and that using this technique on
the wreck would not be a problem. Well, I very much doubt it. First, the surface of the steel plates is no longer
smooth - there are rusticles everywhere, they would have to be removed. I don't see how that could be done
without the risk of damaging the Titanic. Also, the stern section is far to damaged - how would you paint it?

I don't see it happening any time soon.
 
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I don't think painting the ship is any less obtrusive than diving to the wreck or even salvage attempts. Who really knows how the ship would react to this high tech paint job after a 100 years. As for 'preserving Titanic for the future,’ what’s the point? If the ship is to become an unspoiled gravesite and no one is to go near it, Titanic will just be a lump of steel on the sea floor to future generations. It would be an inaccessible lump of steel at that.

I’m not saying that the wreck should be abused in a way that speeds up the damage (trash, beer bottles, destructive devices, etc.), but I believe it’s possible to research and document the site in a responsible manner. That way we can spend time learning about Titanic instead of trying to prevent the natural course of decay.

Most people are never going on a dive to see Titanic. All they will ever see are the pictures, books, and documentaries. In the end, people were fascinated with the Titanic long before Ballard found its remains in 1985, they will probably be fascinated with the ship and its’ stories long after the ship is gone.
 

Rusty_S

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I don't think painting the ship is any less obtrusive than diving to the wreck or even salvage attempts. Who really knows how the ship would react to this high tech paint job after a 100 years. As for 'preserving Titanic for the future,’ what’s the point? If the ship is to become an unspoiled gravesite and no one is to go near it, Titanic will just be a lump of steel on the sea floor to future generations. It would be an inaccessible lump of steel at that.

I’m not saying that the wreck should be abused in a way that speeds up the damage (trash, beer bottles, destructive devices, etc.), but I believe it’s possible to research and document the site in a responsible manner. That way we can spend time learning about Titanic instead of trying to prevent the natural course of decay.

Most people are never going on a dive to see Titanic. All they will ever see are the pictures, books, and documentaries. In the end, people were fascinated with the Titanic long before Ballard found its remains in 1985, they will probably be fascinated with the ship and its’ stories long after the ship is gone.

That is a point I made somewheres, I feel that we need to not avoid exploring and photgraphing the ship but we could always be alittle more mindful of what were leaving behind. Be it lead ballast weights, plaques or even garbage like cans and bottles. The average person will never see the wreck and only chance they have to see it is through photos. The more photos you have the more of Titanic you are preserving in my book.

Painting Titanic wouldnt be that bad but just the thought of brushing the rust off and sweeping the silt and rust out of the inside of the ship to paint it just rattles my cage in a way that makes me uneasy. I dont see it safe to go around brushing rust off, if its unsafe and causing damage to land on the decks of Titanic with submersibles then I think cleaning the rust off will be just as damaging in some areas.
 

Ratgirl

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"Secrets of the Titanic" is available at Amazon via instant view, and can be purchased. It does have the Martin Sheen narration.
 

300feetPete

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<<I have to say that I dont really consider Titanic a grave site as much as I consider her the site of a disaster. When the Arizona was sunk and most of her crew died that didnt stop the US Navy from stripping everything useful off of her even though 90% of her crew died. Like wise we see airliners that crash are cleaned up and bodies recovered.>>

My first post on this forum! I was reading Pelligrino's new book "Farewell Titanic", and he writes about finding a skull in the wreckage of the Grand Staircase reception area, so doesn't that make it a grave site? And then there's the tureen with a finger bone and gold ring.

And then there's Ballard's unforgettable footage in Return to Titanic of the women's shoes, indicating she was lying on her side, with a little girl's shoes and hair comb resting beside her. Even though the bodies are long gone, IMHO it's still a grave site.

As for the Arizona, car accidents, plane wrecks etc, these are not salvage operations. Indeed, the Arizona Memorial is one of the greatest memorials in the world. Not salvage.

With all the experts on here, I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot about what I've said in these comments and misunderstood (and I look forward to it!)

Kind regards,
Pete Poston
 

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