New Delhi: Titanic, in its watery grave, is a great museum of human history and is at risk of being lost forever because of curious voyagers and treasure hunters, fears Bob Ballard, who first discovered the remains of the iconic ship in 1985.
Famous for discovering the great ship, Ballard is a former US Navy officer and a professor of oceanography. Ballard says Titanic is a "museum of human history without door and guard".
"I am deeply concerned about not only the Titanic but all the ancient history that is now at risk. If we cannot save this iconic ship then there is very little hope we can save ancient ships.
"World should realise that you don`t have to go down and take everything and you do not have to do a treasure hunt. This is a common heritage of all of us and if we really want to take steps to preserve human history in the ocean we need to start with Titanic," Ballard told reporters in a telephonic
interview from London.
Ballard has tied up with National Geographic to present a documentary "Save the Titanic" on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the great ship on April 15, 1912. The documentary, along with "Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron" and "Titanic: Case Closed", will go on air on April 14.
The ship and her fate continue to fascinate, largely because of the large-scale horror that took place that night with 1,522 passengers and crew losing their lives.
Ballard says that despite being on the ocean floor for 100 years, the ship is full of human footprints.
"You will find pair of shoes everywhere. The sea and the life below has claimed everything but they do not know what to do with shoes so you will find a pair of mother`s shoes next to her little daughter and that`s their gravestone. At her wreckage we almost felt that we were surrounded by the
lifeboats of all the people that were in the water at that very spot."
This is the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the White Star liner in the early hours of April 15, 1912. Four days after sailing from Southampton for America, she struck an iceberg in the frigid waters of the Atlantic and 2 hours and 40 minutes later was headed to the ocean floor.
Ballard says that the fate of Titanic continues to fascinate so many years after it sank because it is "irony personified in history."
"The story has all the ingredients to make it timelessly fascinating. You have this revolutionary ship that`s unsinkable, and carrying a cross section of people in society. And then, it goes and hits an iceberg and sinks on its maiden journey. It`s an irony personified in history."
Talking about his discovery which came after great research and 75 years later, Ballard says it was a somber moment when they first spotted the boiler of Titanic.
"In the 90`s advanced technologies helped us double diving capabilities in the Atlantic Ocean. I knew that the Titanic was sitting at almost 12,000 feet. What lead me to her discovery what a simple technique that I followed.
"We decided to look for the debris trail instead of the ship. We made calculations and worked backwards using the Agro which was laden with TV cameras. On September 1, 1985, some wreckage showed up on the screen and a little while later we stumbled upon the boiler of the Titanic but we were not jumping with joy, it was a sombre moment."
Ballard says the ship, if preserved well and not subjected to constant submarine journeys, will last for a long time in on the Atlantic floor.
"Deep sea, because of its darkness, its cold temperatures and its great pressures creates a high state of preservation. With a little caution, we can protect Titanic for future generations to visit. I actually think you can go down and clean it and paint the hull."
Ballard has also connected to the Belfast people, who refused to talk about the tragedy.
"The ship`s construction took place at Belfast, and the shipping company appointed nine people to represent the ship out of 10,000 workers who helped create her. After the tragedy, families of the workers refused to talk about it because of the shame and sadness in loss of life involved.
"Now, after three generations of maintaining silence on the subject, they are ready to share the stories and rediscover the pride in the ship," says Ballard, who blames human error for the sinking of the ship.
Ballard credits Titanic discovery for reviving interest in the other wrecks.
"When we found Titanic. the biggest realization was the ship was no longer lost. Also, discovering the Titanic set off a whole chain of events to find other ancient shipwrecks, it helped us realize that deep sea is a museum that reveals so much about our ancient history and that`s fascinating."