Make Titanic wreck an underwater museum, says man who found it

Dr Robert Ballard

Dr Robert Ballard

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by

AN underwater museum should be made from the Titanic wreck, according to the man who discovered it.

The site in the North Atlantic off the Canadian coast enjoys new Unesco protection, and oceanographer Dr Robert Ballard said internet technology could relay images live to audiences all over the world.

Dr Ballard found the wreck in 1985 after painstakingly combing a 100-mile-square area of seabed with a French colleague.

''We saw the cemetery there, marked by shoes,'' he said.

Dr Ballard was visiting Titanic Belfast, a visitor's centre, and delivered a lecture.

He spoke about the next 100 years, of preserving the wreck and making it available to all via communications technology.

''My vision is to turn the Titanic into a museum, accessible by internet two,'' he said, adding he had used the technology in 2004.

He advocated painting the hull with preservative to prevent corrosion and hold the ship together.

Sediment is protecting the bow and he opposed excavating it.

''If we can hold it together you are creating an underwater museum,'' he said.

''As far as I am concerned, it is a piece of cake.''

He recalled the moment when the team found debris from the wreck, identified by a boiler from the Titanic.

''We were screaming and yelling and just celebrating,'' he said.

''Then someone said: 'She sinks in 20 minutes'.

''We realised it was totally inappropriate to be celebrating.''

He said the image that struck him the most was what they saw where the bodies landed and the empty shoes.

The leather was the only part not eaten by sea life.

''We are not celebrating this hundredth anniversary,'' the scientist added.

''It was quite an emotional jarring.

''We were professionals going after this and suddenly the human beings in this surfaced and we realised the ground spoke, the Titanic spoke, and we heard it loud and clear.''

He said the victims would have died within tens of minutes because of hypothermia from ice-cold water.

''Hundreds of bodies rained down, a showering of bodies,'' he said.

He also photographed a comb.

''I often wonder what the daughter's face looked like as the mother combed her hair,'' he said.

He warned that exploring the vessel was like going into a big black hole and it was easy to become disorientated.

He was standing today in front of a replica of the grand staircase on the Titanic.

''There was no staircase, it was gone, a big giant elevator shaft, the clock was gone,'' he said.

He described an alarming moment.

''We are four decks down and the robot turns and light comes on, talk about having a heart attack.''

The team realised the light from their high-tech submarine was being shone back at them, reflected from a chandelier.

He said part of the deck has been damaged by numerous submarines landing on it.

''You do not stick your finger in the Mona Lisa when you visit the Louvre,'' he admonished.

He called for protocols on rubbish, which he said was was spoiling the area.

Dr Ballard was due to attend today's commemorative service at Belfast city hall.

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