FOLLOW-UP

In pursuit of the Titanic

MICHAEL CLUGSTON June 20 1983
FOLLOW-UP

In pursuit of the Titanic

MICHAEL CLUGSTON June 20 1983

In pursuit of the Titanic

FOLLOW-UP

Ever since it sank on April 15,1912, 400 miles southeast of Newfoundland, the Titanic has been the object of morbid curiosity and fascination. It has also been the subject of at least 27 books and has become a metaphor for scientific arrogance. In 1980 Texas oilman Jack Grimm began a search for the great wreck, and he has already invested $2.5 million of his personal fortune in the quest. On July 16 Grimm, a 58-year-old geologist, will sail from Halifax for his third, and he claims his last, search. “I am confident that we will find it,” he declared optimistically.

The main challenge facing his 12member team of oceanographers from New York’s Columbia University is to pinpoint the wreck’s location. William Ryan, the expedition’s chief oceanographer, has narrowed the search area down to 600 square miles—more than two-thirds of it already covered in the 20 days Grimm spent searching in 1980 and 1981. “It is analogous to losing an earring on a thick pile carpet,” explained Ryan. “You have to get down on your hands and rub everywhere on the carpet.”

Next month’s expedition will employ a side-scan sonar to obtain sound-wave photographs of the ocean floor 12,000 feet below and a magnetometer, an instrument that would give a spikeshaped graph printout of the Titanic. A color TV camera will be dropped down to investigate any promising evidence and to film the wreck if it is found. Said Grimm: “It is total darkness down there, but the water is very clear, so with lights you could see the eerie environment of this great ship on the ocean floor. I thought it would be a magnificent film, an accomplishment.” After making the film Grimm hopes to recover the reputed fortune in jewels stored in the ship’s safe.

So far, Grimm’s findings consist only of a propeller-shaped televised image with dimensions that resemble those of the Titanic—but with no accompanying sonar or magnetic evidence of a wreck. Next month’s five-day search, which will cost about $300,000, will begin at the spot where that televised image was obtained. Said Grimm: “It is like drilling a wildcat well for oil or searching for gold and silver. It’s a treasure hunt.”

MICHAEL CLUGSTON