The footage was released to mark the 25th-anniversary of the Academy Award-winning movie, 'Titanic', based on the true story of the White Star liner that sank on its maiden voyage after it hit an iceberg in 1912.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has released over one hour of previously unseen footage of the Titanic wreckage from a 1986 diving expedition.
“The first thing I saw coming out of the gloom at 30 feet was this wall, this giant wall of riveted steel that rose over 100 and some feet above us,” said Robert Ballard when he descended to the wreckage of the vessel, just a year after he and his crew discovered the ocean liner at the bottom of the North Atlantic in 1985.
He saw the wreckage as he was heading to the surface after the submersible he was using started taking water into its batteries. As it rose Ballard saw the Titanic's portholes.
“It was like people looking back at us. It was pretty haunting actually,” he said.
The liner sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City after hitting an iceberg in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. Around 1,500 people perished in the tragedy.
The WHOI team, in partnership with a French oceanographic exploration organisation, discovered the ship's final resting place some 3,780 metres below the surface on Sept. 1, 1985, using an underwater camera.
The newly released footage came from a return expedition the following year.
Prior efforts to find the wreck had failed. And it was the use of sophisticated underwater vehicles that could withstand the unforgiving underwater conditions that led to the 1985 discovery and the 1986 trip, explained WHOI engineer Andy Bowen, who helped develop the equipment.
“The water is near freezing temperatures and probably the biggest challenge is the remoteness of the location, and in particular the harsh environment with regard to the pressure our equipment is exposed to,” he said.
Ballard said he experienced a range of emotions during the 1985 mission.
He was concerned it would become public knowledge that he was a Naval intelligence officer on a top-secret Cold War mission funded by the Navy to study the wrecks of two nuclear submarines that had also gone down in the North Atlantic. The search for the Titanic was a bit of an afterthought.
“I wasn’t a Titanic groupie," he said. “I was heavily involved in my military program. So I wasn’t expecting to be affected by the discovery."
The video, with its haunting and grainy interiors of the ship taken by a remotely-operated underwater exploration vehicle, was released in conjunction with the 25th-anniversary of the remastered version of the Academy Award-winning movie, 'Titanic'.