RMS TITANIC INC. - 1996 - 1998
Early in 1996 plans were set into motion for the then most comprehensive and audacious of Titanic scientific survey and salvage expeditions. Working alongside the Discovery Channel, RMS Titanic Inc. working in collaboration with the French IFREMER returned to the Titanic to continue the salvage of artefacts and to begin site mapping of the entire wreck in a quest to unravel the mysteries of what happened in 1912. This expedition saw the involvement of dozens of scientists, historians, and marine architects which combed through the Titanic wreck and whose data provided the major backdrop for all expeditions and scientific analysis which was to follow. Leading scientist Paul Mathias, of Polaris imaging, brought to the table a new and dynamic form of undersea sonar which was able to penetrate the mud and glimpse potential Iceberg damage, likewise architects David Livingstone and William Garzsky from Harland & Wolff were onboard to analyse the damage to the wreck and spot potential ice damage barely visible above the mud-line. The expedition had many goals, the chief of which was the identification, and recovery of the aptly named "BIG PIECE" which had been spotted in the debris field not far from Titanic stern on a prior expedition. Major publicity was key on this expedition and as a result there was a nearby 'Titanic Memorial Cruise' upon whose decks were several Titanic survivors and their descendants who anxiously watched the salvage of artefacts in anticipation of the 'Big Piece' recovery.
Much of the expedition was hampered by bad weather, faulty equipment, and plain bad luck. Though the scientific and historical aspect of the expedition was a success, with the recovery of many dozens of objects highlighted, the recovery of the 'Big Piece' was not. Cables snapped during recovery, and the 20 ton piece of Titanic tumbled down to the seafloor for a second time.
In 1998, RMSTI & IFREMER returned to the Titanic wreck to follow-up on the failures of the previous expedition and again resumed investigation of the wreck. It was on this expedition that an incredible discovery would be made. Originally spotted by Captain Nargeolet on a previous expedition, this trip saw the discovery of a massive piece of double bottom from Titanic's midsection. This incredible object was thoroughly analysed and found to have come from the ships missing mid-section and was cause for major celebration since it provided new data to understand the manner in which Titanic broke apart on the surface or below. The 'Big Piece' was recovered successfully, and the expedition was covered by NBS network for their Dateline & Discovery Channel special 'Raising the Titanic' which was hosted by Stone Phillips and Sara James. Miss James would also play co-host alongside Bob McKeown for the Discovery Channel exclusive 'TITANIC LIVE' with both specials being aired live via satalite. This was the first time Titanic was to be seen live on tv and the specials were about as successful as the salvage of the 'Big Piece' had been. With the help of Paul Mathias a complete photomosaic of the wreck was completed, as well as some incredibly stunning video captured with the help of special light towers which were manouvered in place and turned on. This allowed huge sections of Titanic to be illuminated for the first time in 86yrs. Interior exploration was to be conducted by Historian and researcher Bill Willard whose homemade underwater rov T-REX was brought onboard for the expedition, however equipment issues meant that exploration was to be conducted primarily using the rov ROBIN attached to the Nautile. Mr Willard, though unable to explore Titanic, would go on to write "Our Story: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the 1998 TITANIC EXPEDITION" which is thee most comprehensive work of literature ever written about any of the Titanic expeditions. The footage captured and data compiled was put forth into several documentaries which were released by the Discovery Channel...... Anatomy of a Disaster, Deep Inside the Titanic, Titanic: Untold Stories, and Answers from the Abyss just to name a few.