Over the years there were many unsuccessful attempts to locate the wreckage of the Titanic. In 1985, Dr Robert BallardDr Robert Ballard. from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) and Jean-Louis Michel from the French Institute for Research and Exploration of the Seas (IFREMER) launched an expedition to search for the Titanic. The last known position of the Titanic as relayed by the crew was: Latitude: 41° 46' N and Longitude: 50° 14' W. It was not known if this position was accurate, but it was used as the starting point for the search. From July 9th to August 7th, the French ship Le Surôit searched a designated area of 150 square miles using side-scanning high resolution sonar. Nothing was found.

On August 22nd, the US Naval research ship Knorr was sent to continue the looking for the Titanic. A new piece of Research vessel Knorr.  (Courtesey of WHOI)equipment called "Argo" carried forward-scanning and side-scanning sonar and high-resolution real-time video cameras. For many days, Argo was towed back and forth along the ocean floor. On September 1, 1985 at about 02:00 am, Argo had located a large object. As the cameras were aimed to take a closer look, the object was identified as one of the Titanic's boilers. At last, after 73 years the wreck of the Titanic had finally been found. The Titanic rests in the North Atlantic Ocean 13,000 feet below (about 2.5 miles).

For several more days, the Argo further searched the Titanic wreckage. It was determined that the Titanic was sitting upright and that the hull had broken into two separate sections. This break occurred in the region between the third and fourth funnels. The two sections are approximately 2000 feet apart and debris is spread over a large area. The Knorr returned to port on September 4, 1985.

Statement by Robert Ballard:

The following excerpt from a press conference describes the position of the Titanic:


Location of Titanic

Location of Bow: 41° 43' 57" N and 49° 56' 49" W
Location of Stern: 41° 43' 35" N and 49° 56' 54" W
Location of Boilers: 41° 43' 32" N and 49° 56' 49" W
Last position reported by Titanic: 41° 46' N and 50° 14' W

Titanic's position is almost 1900 miles from Southampton, England - the place where the adventure began and 1500 miles from New York - the final destination. The Titanic is located about 1000 miles due east of Boston, Massachusetts and approximately 375 miles southeast of St Johns Newfoundland. The bow points towards New York.

In 1986, Ballard led another expedition to the Titanic site. This time, the research vessel was the Atlantis II. On board this ship was a newly developed deep-diving submersible named "Alvin"Alvin - Photo courtesy of WHOI which was capable of carrying three people to previously unattainable depths. Alvin was the first such vehicle of its kind and was a technological marvel. The US Navy helped fund this Titanic expedition as a way to test Alvin. Alvin was equipped with a small self-propelled device called "Jason Junior" which carried a high-resolution camera. The camera which was controlled from within Alvin via a 250 foot long cable. Alvin and Jason Junior worked as designed and was a resounding success. Jason Junior was sent into the Titanic and recorded the first views from inside the Titanic in over 74 years.

Jason Junior was sent to look at many rooms and parts of the Titanic. It also surveyed the debris field. There were many fragile items such as panes of glass, dinner plates, drinking glasses and bottles of wine that were still in perfect condition. The sea had perfectly preserved these artifacts. During the exploration of the Titanic, no human remains have ever been found. Only personal belongings lay where bodies once were. Seeing the wreckage of the Titanic and its contents spilled out on the ocean floor is an incredibly awesome sight, but it is important to remember that the sinking of the Titanic was a tragedy which took about 1500 human lives. One of the most compelling and disturbing images is a photograph of a pair of shoes. That image makes us realize that this is not just a pair of shoes but, the shoes that belonged to a person.

Pair of Shoes

Scientists believed that the extreme cold and reduced oxygen levels at 13,000 feet below the ocean surface would have prevented deterioration of the Titanic and its contents. It was hoped that the damage caused by marine eating organisms would be minimal. As it turned out, the destruction by these organisms was worse than expected, but not as bad as it could have been. The Titanic is slowly disappearing, and over time, it will be gone forever.

Why did the Titanic sink?

It was strongly believed that when the Titanic hit the iceberg, a 350 foot gash was torn in the starboard side of the forward hull. Titanic compartments filling like an ice cube tray.The huge gash in the bow allowed water to infiltrate the ship and cause six of the sixteen watertight compartments to flood. The Titanic was designed to stay afloat if 3 or possibly 4 compartments flooded. As the sea rose above the watertight bulkheads, adjoining compartments filled with water (a simple way to conceptualize how Titanic flooded is to think of what happens when you fill an ice cube tray with water). The added water weight pulled Titanic's bow deeper into the ocean until the great ship gave up its fight and finally sank. The Titanic's "remarkable" and "innovative" watertight design proved to be a mistake and helped contribute to its tragic demise.

At this point, we should briefly look at the Titanic's intended design. The Titanic was consideredWatertight Door practically "unsinkable" because it was designed to stay afloat in the event the hull was pierced and internal flooding occurred. The design was based on the division of the hull into 15 transverse watertight bulkheads with each one incorporating watertight doors. The doors could be closed automatically in the event of an accident. However, the compartments formed by the watertight bulkheads were not independently watertight. This was a major oversite. If water filled a compartment higher than the top of a watertight bulkhead, then the adjoining compartments would flood. The design team assumed that this situation was impossible since all bulkheads rose to a level above the waterline.

The theory of the iceberg causing a 350 foot gash in the hull of Titanic was virtually undisputed. After all, it seemed logical and many survivors of the Titanic said that they personally saw the gaping hole. Common sense should have discounted eyewitness accounts of the damage due to the fact that the iceberg damage occurred below the waterline. It should have also occurred to someone that it was a dark moonless night and extremely difficult to see.

New Evidence
Thanks to modern science, there is a new theory about how the Titanic sank. It is important to keep in mind that it is doubtful we will ever know which of these theories is actually true. When the Titanic was discovered in 1985, it was impossible to tell if there was a 350 foot gash in the hull because the bow is buried in about 60 feet of mud. In 1996, a special acoustic device known as sub-bottom profiler was used to look at the Titanic's hull through the muddy ocean floor. The images revealed that the collision did not cause a gaping hole. Instead, there were six narrow non-contiguous openings in the starboard side of the forward hull. The openings are about 10 feet above the bottom of the ship and appear to follow the hull plate. This suggests that the iron rivets along the plate seams probably popped open to create splits. The openings vary in length, with the longest being about 36 feet and are no wider than an adult hand. The total area of the damage appears to be only about 12 to 13 square feet. The longest gap extends between boiler rooms No. 5 and No. 6, just crossing the watertight bulkhead. Naval architects and engineers believe that Titanic would not have sank had it been traveling at a slightly slower rate of speed. The iceberg's impact and the extent of its damage across the hull plates would have been less severe and fewer compartments would have probably flooded. These six openings may have been all that was needed to bring down the Titanic.

The six narrow gaps in Titanic's hull.

The approximate locations of the six openings in Titanic's hull (indicated in green).

At the British inquiry in 1912, Edward Wilding, one of Harland & Wolff's naval architects, proposed that the uneven flooding in the six watertight compartments meant each had suffered unique, uncontinuous damage. Wilding also proposed that the actual cuts might be relatively small. His testimony was widely ignored. Nearly everyone believed that the only thing that could undo a ship so big and well constructed was a huge gash.

Inferior Steel?

In 1994, metallurgists studied a piece of the Titanic's hull that was retrieved from the wreck site. The piece was one inch thick and still showed remnants of the original paint. The steel edges appeared jagged and displayed no evidence of bending. High quality ship steel has a lot more give and does not break easily. The edges of the piece of steel from Titanic's hull looked as though they were shattered like a broken piece of glass. Scientists used a Charpy test to determine the brittleness of the steel. In a Charpy test, a sample is held in place while a pendulum is released and swings down and hits the sample. The forces in the impact area of the pendulum are electronically monitored. For comparison purposes, a sample of steel used in modern ship building and a sample from the Titanic were cooled in an alcohol bath to about 28 degrees (F) - the temperature of the water at the time of the collision with the iceberg. The modern steel was tested first. When the pendulum hit the sample, the test piece bent into a "V" shape. When the Charpy test was repeated with the sample from the Titanic, the pendulum broke the sample in two. What did this mean? The data confirmed that Titanic's hull steel was brittle when it hit the iceberg. A physical analysis determined that the steel did not become brittle after sitting on the ocean floor for so many years, but instead, came that way from the steel plant. When the Titanic was built, shipbuilders were only concerned about testing for tensile strength (the maximum stress a material can handle before it breaks) and not embrittlement. The steel used in Titanic's hull was found to be high in sulphur - a key ingredient for brittleness. For high-quality modern steel to shatter as the Titanic's hull did, the water temperature must reach 130 degrees below zero (F).

These findings are not trying to suggest that Titanic's steel hull plates were so brittle that the impact with the iceberg shattered the hull into pieces. What it does support is the belief that the iron rivets along plate seams probably failed resulting in splits in the hull. The rivets had the same properties as the hull steel (high in sulfur) and were therefore also brittle. If a hull plate is bent during a collision, a shearing stress is applied to the rivet. If the rivet is considered brittle, it would shear (fail) at a reduced amount of applied force than would a non-brittle rivet. To compound the problem, the stamping process used to create the holes in the hull plates (to accommodate the rivets) caused microscopic cracks in the steel. These cracks reduced the structural integrity of the steel plate at the rivet hole.

It is wrong to assume that Titanic was constructed with inferior materials. It should be pointed out that the steel Harland & Wolff used in the construction was considered high quality and that the most advanced construction techniques available were utilized. Unfortunately, even the best was still not good enough and helped contribute to the untimely demise of the Titanic.

Fire Damage?

When the Titanic sailed from Southampton there was a significant fire burning in coal bunker No. 10 on the starboard side of boiler room No. 6. Coal fires caused by spontaneous combustion were very common and one of the risks associated with carrying large stocks of coal. Under the right combinations of oxygen, temperature and moisture content, coal will start to burn by itself. Spontaneous combustion fires usually begin as "hot spots" deep within the reserve of coal. These hot spots appear when coal absorbs oxygen from the air. Heat generated by the oxidation initiates the fire. Such fires can be very stubborn to extinguish because of the large amount of coal involved (often hundreds of tons) and the difficulty of getting to the seat of the problem.

The coal bunker fire continuously burned throughout Titanic's voyage despite the best efforts by the firemen to put it out. One of the questions raised is what role, if any, did the fire play in the sinking of Titanic? As mentioned earlier, the largest area of damage extends between boiler rooms No. 5 and No. 6 on the starboard side, just crossing the watertight bulkhead. This fact brings to light different possibilities. The first being that it was purely coincidental that the greatest extent of hull damage occurred in the area of boiler room No. 6. Another possibility is that the coal fire significantly weakened the bulkhead subsequently causing the damage to be more severe when the iceberg impacted Titanic's hull.

An artist's rendering of how the Titanic's bow and stern sections look today. Art work copyrighted by Ken Marschall.

Titanic's bow section.  Copyright Ken Marschall.

Titanic's stern section.  Copyright Ken Marschall.


Titanic Model:

Roy Mengot, a Titanic enthusiast, did exhaustive research on the Titanic wreck and created an extremely accurate scale model. Roy went to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to research the archives of ANGUS photos and unpublished video of the wreck. Everything that showed up on video and photographic evidence has been recreated in the model. What a challenge! Roy's exacting and difficult work has earned him many awards for his efforts. I would like to thank Roy for allowing me to display photos of his Titanic model on my website. All model photos are copyrighted by Roy Mengot and are used with full permission.



Overview of Bow Section



Forward port side of bow


Forward port side of bow



Middle aft portion of starboard bow

Middle aft portion of starboard bow

  1. James Cameron sent his remote camera through this window and over the private promenade to enter the sitting room of parlor suite B-51 for the fireplace shot.

  2. Cameron entered this open door to get the footage of the interior doors for the 1st Class entrance.

  3. The gymnasium.

  4. The 1st class entrance to the grand staircase.


Cargo hatches #2 & #3 forward bow

Tear in aft end of bow section

Cargo hatches #2 and #3 in the forward bow well deck

Tear in aft end of bow section



Overview of Stern Section



Forward starboard side of stern

Stern port side middle section

Forward starboard side of stern.

Stern port side middle


Boat deck & 2nd Class entrance atop stern

Port side aft end of stern

Boat deck and 2nd Class enterance atop stern

Port side aft end of stern


Center/middle of stern section

Forward stern section

Center/middle of stern section

1st class smoking room-forward stern

Squiggle line