Drain the Titanic (2015) - full transcript

Computer-generated imagery and other visualization techniques reveal how it would look if all the water was removed from RMS Titanic's final resting place.

NARRATOR: For a century,
the Titanic has been hidden in darkness...

two-and-a-half miles down,
at the bottom of the Atlantic.

But now a new investigation
is about to drain the ocean...

pull the plug of the Atlantic
and reveal the wreck.

The Titanic
as she's never been seen before.

And in the bright light of day,

we uncover critical new pieces
of evidence not previously visible...

from giant gouges on the ocean floor

to damage from the iceberg
that sliced her open.

A team of scientists equipped
with cutting-edge tools

now tackle the long-standing mysteries
of the disaster

that could rewrite the Titanic's story.

Drained dry...

this is the wreck of the Titanic
as you've never seen it before.

[metal creaking]

It's the most infamous ship
in all history,

the Titanic.

From a time when ocean liners
are racing to be

the biggest, the fastest, and the best...

the RMS Titanic is a technological marvel.

When she sets sail in 1912,

she's the largest moving
man-made object on the planet.

An unsinkable ship.

But around 2,500 miles
into her maiden voyage,


[loud scraping]

1,500 passengers and crew
dragged down to the icy depths.

And over a century later,
we still don't know

exactly what happened that night.

How she sank and broke apart.

Hundreds of passengers and crew
witnessed the tragedy

and lived to tell the tale.

Yet, despite this, there remain
countless unanswered questions.

We have lots of historical information,

but often there are biases
in those historical accounts.

Even the eyewitnesses
of the sinking of Titanic

had many different perceptions
of how that sinking took place.

So the best way to unravel
some of those questions

is to use science.

NARRATOR: Explorers first discovered
the Titanic's wreckage in September 1985.

BOB BALLARD: The boiler! Yeah!

[laughing and cheering]

NARRATOR: Since then, more than 20
expeditions have gone back to the ship.

Two-and-a-half miles down,

this is a place as alien
as the surface of the moon.

Only a few yards
of the Titanic's hull are visible

in the explorer's headlights
at any one time.

Nobody's ever been able
to see the whole wreck

or even find the edges of the site.

In the past, trying to understand Titanic
with the existing technology

was like trying to draw a map
of downtown Manhattan

from the height of a ten-story building

in a vehicle
that has the windows fogged up.

It's pitch black and you're trying
to look at it through a flashlight.

Challenging, to say the least.

NARRATOR: Critical clues to
understanding the disaster

still lurk in this darkness.

Now, a team of scientists
funded by the legal steward of the wreck,

RMS Titanic, Inc.,

are set to change all that

and bring the Titanic into
the clear light of day for the first time.

An epic high-tech investigation

to discover exactly how
and why she sank...

the Titanic Mapping Project.

The mission, use cutting-edge
sonar mapping technology

to scan every part of the wreck.

And build a precise digital model
of the Titanic...

as she sits on the ocean floor.

Their data will allow us
to virtually peel back the sea.


Strip away trillions of gallons
of the Atlantic Ocean

and two-and-a-half miles down

reveal the unsinkable Titanic...

drained dry on the ocean floor.

But scanning the deep ocean isn't easy.

Autonomous underwater vehicles, AUVs,

have to dive down
through 12,000 feet of water.

It's incredibly challenging
to work at Titanic.

It's dangerous.
It's a very dangerous place.

NARRATOR: Investigators program the AUVs

to fly as close as 30 feet
above the wreck.

The underwater drones then fire signals,

measuring variations in height
down to the tiniest detail.

They crisscross the wreck and seabed

like mowing a gigantic lawn.

Each pass scans a 150-foot wide strip,

gathering millions of data points.

Next, the team deploys an ROV,

a remote-controlled sub attached by cable,

to capture thousands of digital images
of every point on the wreck.

GALLO: Every single day
these vehicles would come back

with some new bit of information
about what was on the bottom.

NARRATOR: A tidal wave of new data
comes to the surface.

Over 160 hours of video.

In total, 37 terabytes of data.

But to see what they've got takes time.

Over the next weeks,
banks of computers crunch the raw data,

turning millions of sonar points
into a complex model of the wreck.

ROBERT GOODWIN: I remember all of us
sort of sitting around the computer

when we first were building the 3-D layer

and seeing the bow and seeing the stern
in so much detail.

We were all sort of grinning
at the screen.

Looking at all that data
and seeing that for the first time

was pretty amazing.

NARRATOR: At the same time,

visualization expert Bill Lange
begins stitching together

thousands of individual images
of the wreck...

a task that takes him and his team
at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

six months to complete.

It was a very long and tedious process.

There were over 200 other mosaics
that were done

for site interpretation
and feature archaeological work.

NARRATOR: This ultra high-def imagery,

together with the 3-D scan...

can now unlock a new vision
of the Titanic,

a wreck that's been shrouded in darkness

for over a century.

It's been four years in the making.

But now...

we can strip bare
an extraordinary landscape...

pull the plug from the Atlantic.

Two-and-a-half miles down...

giant walls of steel tower into the sky.

Sunlight hits her decks once more

and countless clues to the disaster
start to emerge.

This is...

the drained wreck...

of the Titanic.

NARRATOR: We've drained the Titanic...

and for the first time

we can see the ship in its entirety...

in unprecedented detail.

Now investigators can map out
the site's boundaries.

And archaeologists
can get an overview of a wreck

that's been hidden for over 100 years.

GALLO: It's almost like
the fog has been cleared away.

We can now start to see through
the perpetual darkness.

VRANA: The idea of draining the Titanic

presents the site
in a whole different light.

It's not impenetrable.

It's right there in front of us
to explore.

The Titanic's wreckage is spread out

over half a square mile
of the exposed ocean floor.

An area of some 200 football fields.

The site of RMS Titanic,

it can be described pretty basically
as two large features.

The bow section and the stern section...

which are about a half a mile apart,

and then numerous debris fields.

In all, there are five debris fields,

each scattered with fragments of the ship

and objects that tumbled out as she sank.

The stunning vistas unleashed
by the new model

bring the Titanic back to life.

With the water stripped away,
her story is laid out in plain sight.

People think science is above emotion.

You know, when you're looking
at the boat deck

where you know so many people
said goodbye to one another,

these are important points on that ship.

NARRATOR: The guard rails,
where on that freezing night

fathers hugged their children,

set them in the lowering lifeboats...

and leaned out to catch a final glimpse
of their loved ones.

Portholes where passengers
trapped below deck

saw the starry sky for the last time

as the ship slipped beneath the waves.

And even the mast of the crow's nest,

where lookout Frederick Fleet's voice
shattered the silence of the night

as he first spotted the looming iceberg.

The Titanic's iconic eight-ton anchors,

still in place,

gleam in the bright daylight
for the first time

in over a century.

And with the ocean now sucked dry,

her enormous bow section
towers above the seabed.

Despite the violence of the sinking
and all that time on the bottom,

what's inside that bow, in particular,

is still a ghostly sense
of the ship that was.

NARRATOR: Inside the bow
were many of the most luxurious

of the ship's features.

The grand staircase
running the height of five decks.

The heated swimming pool
reserved for first-class passengers only.

And a state-of-the-art gym

positioned right up on the boat deck.

The model reveals just how intact
this section of the ship really is.

Embedded in the exposed ocean floor,
almost perfectly upright,

the ghostly shell of the Titanic
seems to be sailing across the seabed,

her prow parting the mud
almost like water.

With 40 feet of the bow
above the ocean floor,

a full 60 feet must be buried.

Equivalent to a six-story building.

Using the depth
to which it carved into the seabed,

investigators are refining
their calculations

of the impact speed.

Its descent was very smooth.

It had its aerodynamic nose
facing into the direction of travel...

so there was no tumbling.

It was not particularly violent
until the very last moment.

Once separated from the rest of the ship,

the bow sank first
at about 35 miles per hour

at an angle of 15 to 30 degrees.

Its impact with the sea floor

was like a gigantic 28,000-ton truck
slamming into a snowdrift.

SAUDER: When the bow
finally reached the bottom,

it plowed into the dirt
almost all the way up to the anchors.

NARRATOR: With the darkness
of the deep drained away,

it's crystal clear.

Here the impact is frozen in time.

The investigation
is still probing the data,

hoping to learn more about how the bow
reached the bottom.

And the fact that the bow's intact

means that they can also examine
the most iconic mystery of the Titanic,

the iceberg impact.

The official 1912 accident report
seems to suggest

the iceberg tore a gigantic 300-foot gash
in the ship's right-hand side,

ripping open over a third
of her entire hull.

eyewitness records prove the Titanic

took around two and a half hours to sink.

Investigators are puzzled.

A 300-foot hole
would surely have sunk the Titanic

in a matter of minutes.

Oceanic explorer P.H. Nargeolet

has made 30 trips
12,000 feet down to the Titanic.

But he's never seen a 300-foot gash.

We were trying to find
where the Titanic hit the iceberg,

why it was like that,
why we saw some crack,

why there is a crack here and not here?

NARRATOR: Nargeolet and the team now turn

to the ultra high-resolution photo mosaics
of the wreckage

to see what evidence there might be.

This profile view of the bow
is stitched together

from over 3,000 individual images.

LANGE: The profile mosaics show Titanic

in a way that people
hadn't seen it before.

No one had done
a profile view of Titanic's bow

in the 25 years that people
had been going to Titanic.

NARRATOR: Here again,
even with these pin-sharp images,

they find no sign of anything approaching
a 300-foot tear in the hull.

However, when they turn
to the video footage,

investigators can see
much smaller areas of impact damage.

The actual iceberg damage appears to be

confined to maybe
a 30-foot length of the bow.

It wasn't like a gash
and it wasn't tens of small gashes.

The size of these gaps in the hull

add up to just 11 square feet.

A breach this size would allow
370 gallons of seawater

to gush in every second.

And when they analyze how quickly
this would have sunk the Titanic,

it turns out to be two and a half hours.

Exactly the time
the ship actually took to sink.

An enduring mystery is solved.

The investigations further confirmed

that the giant gash is fiction.

And that the iceberg made
only small punctures below the waterline

that together were enough
to trigger disaster.

But for the team,
there's an even bigger question looming

that our new model could shed light on.

When and where
did the ship get torn in half?

How did her bow
become separated from her stern

by a staggering 2,000 feet?

The answer is here, in broad daylight,
on the drained sea floor

in the exposed wreck of the Titanic.

We're peeling back the Atlantic Ocean,

draining its waters to reveal
the wreckage of the Titanic.

This is what the ship looks like today

without two-and-a-half miles
of pitch-black ocean

blocking out the sun.

2,000 feet beyond the massive bow section,

in the heart of the debris fields,

lies the dismembered stern,

the back end of the ship.

It's the second largest fragment,

392 feet long.

But it's immediately obvious it's
in very different condition to the bow.

The stern is a mess. It looks like
it's been ripped up like confetti.

The stern today is pure chaos.

NARRATOR: Some of the stern's
huge metal components are still intact,

like the 40-foot-high engines,
each the size of a large house.

But our highly detailed model
also shows decks collapsing,

as if crushed together.

Heavy steel beams
twisted and torn like straws.

GALLO: It's hard to figure out
what you're looking at.

To me it almost looks like giant pieces
of metal sitting on the sea floor,

but tough to make it out
as a piece of a ship.

Why is it in such bad condition?

Investigators have struggled
to fully explain this.

The stern section
has its problems in interpretation

because it's so completely broken up.

But within the model there's a vital clue.

Something that could unlock
the stern's violent story.

On the acoustic map
you can see that the stern

was turning counter clock.

It's a massive mark carved into the seabed

when the stern made impact.

Scientists can now read the tracks

and interpret how the stern
impacted the sea floor.

NARGEOLET:You can see very well
when the stern hit the bottom,

the stern was still turning.

And you can see the bottom of the ship
on port side

showing that the stern
was turning in same time.

The marks allow investigators to work out

the speed of impact.

It turns out that the stern
was moving through the water

at 50 miles per hour.

Massive forces from chaotically whipping
through the ocean at such speed

help explain why the stern
is so badly damaged...

while the hydrodynamic bow
sliced cleanly through the water

and remained largely intact.

If you have a plane
that's damaged in flight,

the air will get under the skin
of the plane

and rip pieces off.

The same thing would likely have happened

with the Titanic's
rapidly disintegrating stern.

SAUDER: At first, large chunks came off

and then, once the structure resisted,

small pieces, like confetti,
started to fly away.

Investigators think high-pressure water

may then have found a route
into the ship's internal structure,

slamming into its interior walls.

Once the hull is separated
from the frames...

water will blast through.

It'll form a ram.

All those interior walls were wooden
and they didn't stand a chance.

The water started coming through
at full force.

They were pulverized.

To the team, this is more evidence

for why the stern now looks
like a massive car wreck...

while the bow section remains intact.

It's another answer to the mystery.

The investigation has now clarified
how the two main sections of the ship

reach the bottom.

It's also shown how they impacted

and why they look so completely different.

But there's still one major question
to tackle.

How and when did the Titanic break apart?

NARRATOR: With cutting-edge technology,

we've drained the depths
of the Atlantic Ocean...

and exposed the final resting place
of the Titanic.

After 100 years of darkness,

her decks once more bask
in the warmth of the sun.

Between the bow and stern,

a massive debris field stretches out
for hundreds of feet.

For the investigators,
it's a view they've never seen before.

Every piece is a potential clue
in solving the mystery

of how and why the Titanic broke apart.

For years, the dominant theory has been
that she split in two on the surface.

As the sinking bow angled down,

lifting the stern high into the air,

its own unsupported weight
became too much.

The ship snapped in half.

But with the ocean now drained away,

new clues are emerging
that could challenge that theory.

By looking at the pattern in which
the debris fell to the ocean floor,

investigators can retrace
the way it fell from the ship.

They'll use this forensic record
to get an accurate picture

of how and when
the boat tore itself to pieces.

But getting the answer
will require a massive effort.

The team must scan
all the new underwater data

to ID and tag the position
of as many objects as possible...

and build a massive digital map
of the artifacts

from the ocean floor.

It includes the positions
of the 5,000 or so objects

previous expeditions
have recovered from the wreck.

It's a catalog of treasures.

Ornate statues
from the ship's grand stairway...

chandeliers that once hung
in the first-class smoking room...

the finest crockery
from the ship's best restaurant.

There's even one of
the Titanic's bronze bells...

and pieces of nautical equipment
from the docking bridge.

Every precious object
is a critical data point

and could help rewrite the story
of how the ship came apart.

The patterns that are emerging
from this remapping of the site

don't fit any of the traditional models
that were there before.

The work will take years to complete.

GALLO: There's coffee cups,
dinner plates, bits of chandeliers,

deck benches.

It's full of objects from the ship,
but also of personal objects as well.

NARRATOR: Each data point on the map
is also a story in itself.

A touchstone that reveals
a detail of a human life.

These were all real people, who had lives,

who had people who loved them,

families who were impacted
by what happened on that night.

Some artifacts are highly personal.

Delicate jewelry that may once have graced
the neck of a society lady.

And perfume bottles
with their precious liquid still inside.

It's just a very beautiful,
very emotional moment

just to see everything
lying there on the ground.

It's a visual story of that tragedy.

NARRATOR: After years of research,

Alex Klingelhofer is now able
to tie some of these belongings

to specific named individuals.

This is a pocket watch,
an open-face style watch.

This one still has its hands.

It probably stopped
when it was immersed in the water.

NARRATOR: The watch came
from this spot in a debris field...

1,100 feet southeast of the stern.

KLINGELHOFER:It belonged to
Thomas William Solomon Brown.

He was a hotelier from South Africa

and he was headed with his family
to make a new start

in the western part of the United States.

He did not survive.

However, his wife
and his daughter, Edith, did.

NARRATOR: Other passengers even
left behind written traces of their lives

still legible
after a century in the water.

A notebook found 780 feet from the stern
in the west debris field

belonged to a young third-class passenger,

Edgardo Samuel Andrew.

KLINGELHOFER:He was 17 years old.

When you look at his belongings,
you find schoolbooks.

You can still see the writing in here,
even though it's quite stained.

He used a pencil
and the pencil has remained legible.

Here, on this page,

he's writing his name.

I guess practicing writing his name
in the correct way.

You begin to see just this young boy

going third-class by himself to America.

NARRATOR: Edgardo was hoping
to make a better life for himself,

like so many immigrants traveling
to the new world.

Edgardo did not survive the voyage.

That's why this is perhaps
such a heartrending object

because it's his last notations.

He's finished with school.

He throws his schoolbooks
into this suitcase

and he heads off to America,

and that's the last that we hear of him.

NARRATOR: There are many more objects
the team hope to examine further,

some with the potential to flesh out
the human face of the tragedy.

Oftentimes history swallows up
the ordinary folks.

All of us, we just tend to go away.

Archaeological sites
give us an opportunity

to correct that.

NARRATOR: Now the investigation
has defined this ghostly place

as an archaeological site,

it will help them protect
the Titanic's story

for generations to come.

Each of the priceless artifacts
is part of a mosaic of tragic stories,

and together they now form a picture.

The fully mapped debris field
is at last ready to give the investigators

the crucial answer
they've long been waiting for--

when and where the Titanic broke apart.

NARRATOR: In the two-and-a-half hours
it took the Titanic to sink,

over 700 people made it off the ship
and into lifeboats.

Hundreds of these survivors
witnessed the sinking.

Yet there's always been disagreement
about how and when the ship broke apart.

There are still different theories
and arguments

as to how things exactly happened
when the ship tore in two.

Now some investigators think the new data

could prove once and for all
what really happened.

In recent years, the dominant theory
has been that the breakup occurred

while the Titanic was still
on the surface.

We know from eyewitnesses

that the stern tilted up out of the water
as she sank.

Some experts have argued
this created immense stresses,

tearing the ship in two.

But Bill Lange now thinks otherwise.

According to him,
the new data paints a different picture.

On the drained ocean floor
are all the clues he needs.

To Bill's trained eye,

there's nothing random
about the patterns of the debris field.

Like blood spatters at a crime scene,
they tell a story.

Now, flooded in daylight
for the first time,

with every last corner of the debris field

scanned and analyzed,

he can work out
how the Titanic really sank.

It's going to tell us a lot more
about what happened to the ship

after it left the surface...

made this two-and-a-half-mile descent
to the sea floor

and hopefully tell us more
about what happened to Titanic

during its breakup.

For Bill, there's a key piece of evidence

visible for the first time
in the new images

of the exposed ocean floor.

It's the overall scale
of the debris field.

The new survey definitively maps the site.

And for the first time, investigators
can now see its precise dimensions.

They're not quite the size they expected.

I think the site really isn't that big
when you consider the size of the ship.

I mean, you've got
an almost 1,000-foot-long ship

that's in two square miles.

NARRATOR: If the ship
had fully separated on the surface,

Bill thinks there'd be
a much larger scatter area.

LANGE: Considering that it fell
a few miles through a water column,

I think that the scattering of artifacts
is rather small.

The lower in the water the separation,

the less distance for debris
to spread out as it falls

and the more compact the pattern
on the ocean floor.

It's a straightforward argument.

And for Bill,
it's evidence the ship separated

much deeper in the water
than previously thought.

That's the only way he can explain
the small scatter pattern.

One of the most important things,
I think, that's come out of this

is that the ship may not have broken up

as fast and as shallow
as what was originally thought.

NARRATOR: And when the theory
is checked against eyewitness accounts,

there's more evidence.

The survivors' best position
to see any breakup

were three men on the aft boat deck.

Their statements recall
the funnels falling away from the ship...

but no large-scale disintegration...

and certainly no snapping in two.

Bill and his colleagues around the country

have much more work to do
before they arrive at final proof.

But in their view,

there's simply no other way
to explain the evidence.

To them, one thing is beyond doubt.

The Titanic did not separate
anywhere near the surface.

With powerful new theories,
the investigation is beginning to pay off.

The mountain of data from the expedition
has allowed us to drain the ocean

and create a new view
where we can spot clues

others may have missed.

All the key events of the disaster

left traces on the wreckage
or on the seabed.

And they're here for us to see.

Clues that are bringing
the final mysteries of the Titanic

into crisp focus.

But while investigators
now have a sharper understanding

of the history of the wreck,

there's one key mystery
they still hope to unravel.

What will happen to the Titanic
in the future?

NARRATOR: This is the exposed Titanic
as she looks today,

after a century of decay
in the dark depths.

In the 30 years since she was found,

no one's been able
to see her quite like this.

As Titanic investigators study the model,

expedition data, and video,

it's becoming ever clearer
that month-by-month,


the ship is disappearing.

And it's happening faster
than some experts expected.

P.H. Nargeolet has been going to the wreck
for three decades...

and he's seen a big change over time.

The distance between the A deck
and the B deck was easily ten feet.

Now it's five, six feet,

and, step-by-step, the deterioration
is going close to the bridge.

Soon all the decks
will collapse on each other

and everything inside
will be lost forever.

NARRATOR: Investigators want to know
why it's happening so fast.

At these depths,
there's very little oxygen in the water

so metal should rust extremely slowly.

Yet on the expedition footage,

they can clearly see the ship caked
in weird formations

that certainly look like
some kind of rust.

They call them "rusticles."

LORI JOHNSTON: I was absolutely stunned
by the size, the colors.

They're very orange and brown
and, yet, when you're close to them,

there are greens and purples
and reds and yellows

and every color of the rainbow.

In the lab, they X-ray pieces of rusticle

recovered from the ship.

What they find inside
isn't what might be expected.

This is no ordinary rust.

The structure
inside this hard-looking shell

is extremely fragile.

They're filled with millions
of ducts and tunnels

and passageways
and all of these little cavities,

and all sorts of nutrients
are stored in there.

For the microbiologists on the team,

it's crystal clear.

The rusticles are formed
by living organisms.

And when they run further tests,

there's no doubting
what these organisms are--


We found five different communities
of bacteria

living inside a rusticle,

and then you've got another community
living on the outside.

Makes them a very complex little beast.

NARRATOR: They figure out
that some of these little beasts

are anaerobic bacteria.

Life-forms that don't need
oxygen to survive.

Instead, for their energy supply,

they extract iron and minerals
from the ship's metalwork.

Like a swarm of microscopic piranhas,

billions upon billions of them
are feeding on the wreck.

The impact of the rusticles on this
extremely large ship is overwhelming.

By studying these tiny creatures,

the microbiologists
can now confidently lay down

a time frame for the Titanic's
final destruction.

JOHNSTON: If we went back 500 years,

Titanic would look fairly similar
to what the bow section looks right now

as far as the hull would be.

It would still be a very U-shape,
very formal-looking docked ship.

However, I would expect the deterioration
to move from the back to the front

so that a lot of the promenade and deck
would have fallen onto itself.

If we were to revisit Titanic
in a thousand years,

I would not be able to tell,
sort of, the size

of the magnificent ship that she is today.

I would expect that all of the decking
would be gone

and the bow would be filled
with what would look like

sort of piles of rust.

If you revisited the stern section,

you would see that the deterioration

had greatly increased,

simply because the damage that section
had sustained during the sinking.

The bacteria would have taken girders

and basically had encrusted them
in rusticles

and deteriorated them to the point

of being a pile of iron ore
at the bottom of the sea floor.

Long before that, the Titanic's custodians

will have to make some tough decisions.

What do we do?

Do we stand by and allow the bow section
to collapse upon itself?

Or, in the future,
do we actually design some projects

for recovery of certain types of artifacts

from the bow section?

NARRATOR: But any suggestion
of bringing up more artifacts

is controversial.

For some descendants
of those who lost their lives,

this is a grave site
and should be left alone.

Initially, Dave Gallo agreed.

But since the objects
have been put on display,

he's less sure.

GALLO: We went to see the Titanic exhibit

and I realized then
what a powerful storytelling method it was

to have some of those artifacts with you
so you could show someone.

NARGEOLET:For me, the artifacts are
the historical memory of the ship.

We can leave everything
on the bottom of the ocean forever

and it will be lost.

However badly the Titanic deteriorates,

one thing's for certain.

Thanks to the new science,
much of the ship can never now be lost.

The edge of the site's
been defined for the first time,

so its archaeology can be protected.

Every inch of the wreck
inside the perimeter

has been scanned and analyzed.

Every known artifact logged,
mapped, and captured

in this digital duplicate world
that will never erode.

Frozen in time,

we can see and study the wreck
like never before.

In broad daylight,

explorers, now and in the future,

can continue their investigation
here on the drained ocean floor

where the Titanic rests.

[metal creaking]

Captioned by
Pixel Logic Media