[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  Field Notes From
Titanic Revisited

<< Back to Feature Page

Titanic Revisited On AssignmentArrows

View Field Notes
From Author
Robert D. Ballard

Titanic Revisited On Assignment

View Field Notes
From Photographer

Bert Fox

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Robert D. Ballard (top) and Mark Thiessen


Titanic Revisited On Assignment Author Titanic Revisited On Assignment Author
Titanic Revisited

Field Notes From Author
Robert D. Ballard

Best Worst Quirkiest
    Once we accomplished our goal of broadcasting from the deck, we could enjoy the scenery at Titanic with the beautiful high-definition cameras. At that point, we had a lovely, walk-in-the-woods, look-at-the-flowers kind of trip. The best expeditions are when you're pushed to the limit, you succeed, and you go home tired but happy. But the key is to push yourself. You don't know what's possible unless you try the impossible. And that's what we did.

    We were trying to get a shot from the deck of Titanic for a live broadcast. We went out early in the morning on NOAA's ship Ronald H. Brown, but while we were setting up, Hercules—our robotic vehicle—failed. To retrieve it and get it back in place takes at least five hours. We recovered it and had seven hours to go before the broadcast, but when we put it back in the water, Hercules failed again. The engineer said he wouldn't be able to bring it around in time for the broadcast, but failure was not an option. We had to get it back on deck, so we worked like crazy.
    Hercules is connected to the ship, but the current pushes it like the wind. Without precise calculations, it wouldn't come down in the right spot. If we were wrong, we would have to move the ship, but that motion wouldn't reach the vehicle for 45 minutes. We decided to make the repairs while moving the ship. If we were lucky, Hercules would come down four feet (one meter) in front of Titanic's deck. And it did. We did our 15-minute live segment, and when it ended the place exploded with "Oh, my God! We did it!"

    I was surprised by the incredibly bad weather. We were out there at a time of year when we shouldn't have had so many storms, but we were hammered. We got storms when the forecasters said there weren't going to be any. It cut our margin of success because we were kept out of the water. We were terrified that there would be a storm during the night of the live broadcast. And as it turned out there was one just before it and just after it. So Neptune let us in for that window. The gods were on our side for that trip.


© 2004 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe