The Grave of the Titanic
The story of the Titanic and the
iceberg has grown into a legend of the sea. It took her discovery in 1985
to begin to find the truth behind the myth. One of the things that makes
the Titanic so fascinating is that she represented the best of
technology when she set sail on her ill-fated voyage in 1912, and it took
the best of technology in the form of sonar, satellite tracking, and
deep-dive technology to locate her grave 73 years later. In the early
1900's, waterborne transportation was the norm; today, satellites are
taken for granted by our society. But we tend to forget the immense
effort that these two technologies require to operate to their maximum
potential. Until recently, the technology did not exist to locate,
photograph, and explore this ship that rested two and a half miles down
on the ocean floor.
On April 10, 1912, the RMS
Titanic set sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New
York. At that time, she was the largest and most luxurious ship ever
built. At 11:40 PM on April 14, 1912, she struck an iceberg about 400
miles off Newfoundland, Canada. Although her crew had been warned about
icebergs several times that evening by other ships navigating through
that region, she was traveling at near top speed of about 20.5 knots when
one grazed her side.
Less than three hours later, the
Titanic plunged to the bottom of the sea, taking more than 1500
people with her. Only a fraction of her passengers were saved. The world
was stunned to learn of the fate of the unsinkable Titanic. It
carried some of the richest, most powerful industrialists of her day.
Together, their personal fortunes were worth $600 million in 1912! In
addition to wealthy and the middle class passengers, she carried poor
emigrants from Europe and the Middle East seeking economic and social
freedom in the New World.
The remains of the Titanic were
found in 1985 by Dr. Robert Ballard, an oceanographer and marine
biologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. When he located
the Titanic, he saw that, as some survivors reported, the ship had
broken apart. He believed the weight of the water-filled bow raised the
stern out of the water and snapped the ship in two just before it sank.
Debris falling out of the ship was strewn over a 1/2 mile across the sea
floor. The bow and the stern were found nearly 2000ft.
Keeping her location a secret, Bob Ballard used GPS to find
theTitanic again when he returned the next year. He hoped to
prevent treasure seekers from finding her and plundering the ship for
booty such as coffee cups inscribed with RMS Titanic. On this
second expedition, he visited the ship several times by submarine. On his
last descent, he left a plaque honoring the 1500 victims and asking that
subsequent explorers leave their grave
1. Eventually Bob Ballard released
the coordinates of the Titanic's location. He recorded her
coordinates as, stern section sits on ocean floor at
41o43'35" N, 49o56'54" W, boilers at
41o43'32" N, 49o56'49" W, bow at
41o43'57" N, 49o56'49" W. Find these
coordinates and trace the outline of the sunken pieces of the
Titanic on a chart of the North Atlantic.
2. How far is it
from its plotted course? At the time of the accident, the ship was
reported to be at 41o46' N, 50o 14' W. (She was
found 13½ miles southeast of the position given in her lastdistress
3. Discuss the fact that satellite technology through GPS
can pinpoint any position on Earth to within 30 feet. In 1912,
navigation techniques of dead reckoning and celestial navigation could
only give one an approximate location within several miles of one's true
position.If the Titanic had had better navigational aids, could
its passengers have all been saved? Could it even have avoided the
4. Track the route she took from England to New York in
She started from Southampton, England, and stopped at
Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland to pick up passengers. Her
destination was New York. She sank 1000 miles due east of Boston,
Massachusetts, and 375 miles southeast of St. John's, Newfoundland.
unsinkable boat. What would it be made of? How would it be shaped? How
will you test your hypothesis? How much weight ("passengers")
could it carry? How far can it tip to the side before it flips?Reliving the moment
Draw a picture of the
Titanic on that fateful night, using literature connection
references. Information that should be incorporated into the work: It was
night. There were icebergs. As the bow sank, the stern lifted farther and
farther out of the water."Just before the ship disappeared
entirely," according to Bob Ballard,"Many eyewitnesses agreed
that the ship in fact broke in two, the bow plunging down while the stern
briefly righted itself before turning almost vertical and sinking a few
Detail what it might have been like
aboard the Titanic between 11:40PM (when the ship gently grazed
the iceberg) to 2:18 AM when it disappeared below the sea.
an illustration of Jason finding the bow of the Titanic at the
bottom of the sea at a depth of 12,460 ft. The ship was found in several
pieces. Draw what the Titanic might look like after another
100 years on the ocean floor.Lifeboats
How many lifeboats were needed?
TheTitanic was owned by the British White Star Line, flew the
British flag,and thus was under the rules and regulations of the British
government. Although she was originally designed to carry 42 lifeboats,
the ship carried only 20 lifeboats (four more than were required at the
time by British regulations) for the 2,228 passengers and crew. (That
number could supposedly hold 1,178 people.) The original designer of
theTitanic had proposed 50 lifeboats, but the British owners of
the White Star Line had decided against it. (If it had been under US
Government regulation at the time, 42 lifeboats, enough to accommodate
2,367 persons would have been required for a ship that size.)
705 people were rescued; 1523 drowned or froze to death in the icy water.
Ironically, most of those who drowned were Americans. Assuming that each
lifeboat could hold 65 people, how many lifeboats did they need?
Unfortunately, the 20 lifeboats on board were launched in panic before
they were filled to capacity, so the number of people rescued was even
fewer than could have been accommodated.
Only 705 of 2,227
people on board survived. What percentage is that?
Analyze these statistics. What do these figures
tell you about the policy of saving women and children first, how social
standing and wealth influenced who was rescued, and the tradition that
the crew usually went down with the ship? Many of the poorest people were
not aware of the seriousness of the damage to the Titanic until
shortly before it sank. (chart source: The Titanic: End of a
Chart of the Atlantic Ocean
with latitude/longitude, pencils, rulers, Robert Ballard's Exploring
the Titanic or The Discovery of the
More classroom activities on the Titanic:
Learn more about the Titanic's last moments and how the Titanic was found using submarines in What's in a Name?
Consider how many different professionals assisted in the finding of the Titanic in Get a Job!
Learn more about How Satellites Work.
For detailed information about the Titanic, crew, passengers, survivors and victims, please see Enclyclopedia Titanica
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