National Geographic : 1985 Dec
APRIL 14,1912-11:00 P.M. Sea search for a legend RER THE YEARS a number of expeditions have sought without success to locate Titanic-a problem compounded by the North Atlantic's unpredictable weather, the enormous depth at which Titanic lies, and con flicting accounts of her final moments. Organizing our search, Jean-Louis Michel and Jean Jarry, the French project leader, and I traced the move ment of four ships before, dur ing, and after the sinking. From the outset we discounted the reported position of Cali fornian, the ship nearest to Titanic and the one that could have saved all aboard if Cali fornian's radio had not been off. That position has always been controversial. In the sequence above we reconstruct what we believe to be Titanic's final hours: * April 14, 11:00 p.m.: Steaming westward, Titanic approaches a barrier of field ice and bergs several miles wide stretching north and south some 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. Cali fornian, halted by ice to the north, radios a warning and shortly shuts down her set. * April 14, 11:40 p.m.: At a speed her navigator mis takenly believes to be more than 21 knots, Titanic hits an iceberg and radios a distress call with her estimated posi tion (pink cross). But a consis tent change in Californian's reported positions indicates that a southeasterly current (arrow) was slowing Titanic and putting her off track. Af ter midnight Californianand Titanic each see the lights of another ship in the other's di rection. But according to the two ships' reported positions, the distance between them is too great. There must be anoth er vessel between them-the "mystery ship" (dotted outline) that has intrigued historians ever since. Later Californiansees white rockets on the horizon but doesn't real ize they are distress signals. * April 15, 2:20 a.m.: Titanic goes under, with 705 survivors in lifeboats. The Cun ard liner Carpathia,which had picked up the first distress call 58 miles to the southeast, con tinues steaming on a northwest course toward Titanic's report ed, but incorrect, position. * April 15, 4:10 a.m.: Carpathiaencounters the drift ing lifeboats and begins rescue. Later Californian,which has finally turned on her radio, arrives at Titanic's reported position with Mount Temple and other ships. The mystery ship, if it ever existed, has long ago vanished. Having taken all elements into account, Jean Louis, Jean, and I conclude that Titanic must lie north of where Carpathiamet the lifeboats. * June 28, 1985: The French ship Le Suroit ("Sou'wester") begins "mowing the lawn"-systematically crossing the 150-square-mile target zone with her deep search sonar. Le Suroit covers 80 percent of the zone, leaving O 600 km O 600 mi NGSCARTOGRAPHIC DIVISION 11:40 P.M.