Titanic discovery: ‘Ghostly shapes’ of ‘people freezing to death’ uncovered in find

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More than 1,500 people perished 110 years ago today, as the Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean while embarking on her first voyage between Southampton and New York City. The Titanic was the world’s then-largest ocean liner in operation, carrying 2,224 people between the two continents before striking an iceberg late on April 14. By 2am the following morning, she had succumbed to the sea, finding her rest spot in the ocean until decades later when it was uncovered by a team of French and American explorers.

Its story has remained shrouded in mystery, with findings constantly coming out about the ship’s doomed path to destruction.

James Cameron’s epic film Titanic also saw a new generation hooked upon the liner’s tale, with the movie going on to win a record-equaling 11 Academy Awards in 1997.

And for Dr Robert Ballard, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, his legacy will forever be linked to the tragedy that came with the Titanic.

Dr Ballard was among the first people to unearth the vessel in September 1985, when a series of anomalies on the smooth ocean floor were found.

Soon after these were discovered, debris on the floor was awakened, before a boiler from the Titanic and its hull were then found.

Their finds that day helped change historical understandings of what happened on that fateful night, including that the Titanic itself had actually split in two.

According to History.com, Dr Ballard noted how the discovery of the ship came with a series of conflicting emotions.

He wrote: “It was one thing to have won — to have found the ship.

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“It was another thing to be there. That was the spooky part. I could see the Titanic as she slipped nose-first into the glassy water.

“Around me were the ghostly shapes of the lifeboats and the piercing shouts and screams of people freezing to death in the water.”

Prior to the discovery, Dr Ballard explained how the moment one of the Titanic’s boilers had been located, the team erupted into jubilant applause.

Their excitement, though, was short-lived.

He continued in an interview with 60 Minutes: “We were embarrassed we were celebrating.

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“And all of a sudden we realized that we should not be dancing on someone’s grave.”

The Titanic was considered at its unveiling to be “unsinkable”, but while travelling at high speeds through the North Atlantic, iceberg warnings were ignored by the crew.

Despite the potential danger, evasive action against the icebergs was taken, but too late, ensuring a deadly collision occurred.

Though many factors contributed to the horror sinking in 1912, experts ordinarily agree that had the warning signs been taken more seriously, and weather conditions respected, a crisis could have been diverted.

Dr Ballard’s find showed how the vessel had actually split in half following the collision, with the front and back of the ship found nearly 2,000 feet apart.

Each year, commemorations and ceremonies are held on the anniversary of the sinking to pay respects to those who lost their lives.

Barely 90 hours after the discovery was made, and their place in history secure, the crew were forced to leave the site as a result of poor weather.

Dr Ballard, now known for his fury at those attempting to salvage artifacts from the shipwreck, said: “The Titanic lies now in 13,000 feet of water on a gently sloping alpine-like countryside overlooking a small canyon below.

“There is no light at this great depth and little life can be found.

“It is a quiet and peaceful place — and a fitting place for the remains of this greatest of sea tragedies to rest. Forever may it remain that way.”

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