I well remember the excitement generated when the remains of the iconic superliner were discovered by Dr.Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in May 1985.
After several years of hunting, Ballard and his team located the 'Titanic' lying at a staggering 2 and a half mile depth on the bed of the North Atlantic. Using the deep sea submersible 'Alvin', he dived on the ruined hulk and recorded a fascinating series of video films, along with hundreds of still photographs.
Far from being the glamorous, magisterial creature that was often imagined by authors and film directors up until then, the actual remains were a pitiful echo of what the great ship had once been. Split in two, and with her stern section devastated, she lay devoid of funnels and bridge in the smothering grey mud, surrounded by a massive debris field of coal, fittings and engine components.
Survivors of the catastrophe criticized the research team's apparent lack of sensitivity in exploring what is, in effect, a mass grave- an issue not helped by the fact that the 'memorial plaque' left by Ballard on one of the capstans was mostly in memory of a former colleague of his, with the 1,500 dead added on as an afterthought.
Tragically, the location of the wreck site opened the way for a succession of raids by treasure-hunters. A French expedition two years later took hundreds of relics from the vessel, damaging her superstructure during sloppy salvage attempts and outraging global public opinion. The site was eventually protected under US law, and today, explorers are once again restricted to bringing up nothing but photographs.
Apart from the moral prohibitions involved, raising the wreck is all but technically impossible given it's condition, so there she will remain for hundreds of years more - a tragic monument to a bygone age, and a mausoleum for the victims of her demise. May they all rest undisturbed from now on.