'Crazy' to even think of raising sunk liner

Mon, Apr 16, 2012, 01:00

EXPLORER'S VIEW:THE TITANIC would never survive being raised from the ocean bed, but more people should be able to visit her in situ, the man who discovered her wreck has said.

Distinguished US oceanographer Robert Ballard was in Belfast to give a Titanic memorial lecture on Saturday – 100 years to the day after the world’s most famous ocean liner met her doomed fate on her maiden voyage.

Responding to a question from the audience at the recently opened Titanic Centre in Belfast, the National Geographic’s explorer-in-residence said it was “She wouldn’t survive it,” he said. “She is not the same ship that sailed 100 years ago. She is of the sea now.”

Overlooking the very slipways where the ship was launched, he told the gathering that, despite having conducted more than 120 deep-sea expeditions, he had a special affection for the Titanic.

“The more time I spent studying her story, the more I fell under her spell,” he said. “The Titanic story is infused with romance, pathos and glory.”

Dr Ballard discovered the wreck in 1985 off Newfoundland – almost 4km under the surface – after 12 years of research. The first thing to strike him was “seeing hundreds of pairs of shoes”.

Asked did he ever take mementoes from the wreck, he said he strongly disagreed with “plundering” wrecks, which he likened to “grave-robbing”.

“Shoes in a display cabinet mean nothing. To appreciate them you have to see them in the ocean.”

He said continuing advances in technology would make deep-sea tourism accessible to more people – something which he supported. “The deep sea is the largest museum on earth. We want to instil an ethos of ‘look but don’t touch’.”