Published: 25th August 2011

Titanic Explorer returns to Titanic’s Birthplace


Dr. Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who discovered Titanic in 1985, has returned to the ship’s birthplace in Belfast.

Dr. Ballard, who is providing previously unseen Titanic material for the new Titanic Belfast visitor attraction, is in Northern Ireland as part of the preparations for the centenary of her maiden voyage next year. Based in Rhode Island, this was Dr. Ballard’s first visit to Belfast since 1986 and his first opportunity to see the new Titanic Belfast building for himself.  In addition to providing thousands of images for a unique, hi-tech flyover video of Titanic’s final resting place, Dr Ballard is also providing Titanic Belfast with live links to his ongoing explorations. He also confirmed that he will be speaking at Titanic Belfast to mark the centenary of the ship’s loss next April.

During a visit to the Drawing Office where Titanic was designed, Dr. Ballard said: “Titanic belongs to Belfast.  I’m very pleased that the city which gave Titanic to the world will now be able to welcome the world to Titanic Belfast.  Titanic’s story is infused with romance, pathos and glory, and there’s no better place to tell it than Belfast”  

“Discovering Titanic was the culmination of 12-years of work and it was the scientific challenge of visiting and filming her which initially drew me to the task.  However, finding the Titanic also appealed to me romantically, and the more time I spent studying her story the more I fell under her spell”

“It’s a real thrill to be back in Belfast – the Titanic Town – standing in the very spot where she was designed, built and fitted out.  It’s also a great thrill to see the amazing new Titanic Belfast visitor attraction.  It’s a stunning spectacle and I can’t wait to come back for its opening next year.”

Tim Husbands, CEO of Titanic Belfast, added: “It goes without saying that we’re thrilled that Dr. Ballard is so closely involved with Titanic Belfast.  When we open next spring Titanic Belfast will be the world’s biggest Titanic attraction; it’s fitting, therefore, that the biggest name in modern Titanic folklore will be sharing his unique insight into the vessel with our visitors”.

“Dr. Ballard will also be providing live links from his ongoing expeditions to remote, unexplored areas of the seabed at Titanic Belfast’s Ocean Exploration Centre.  Apart from being a tremendous education resource, the Centre will be a fascinating and continually updated story that will put Titanic in the wider context of the world’s oceans which are still 95% unexplored.”  

During his visit to the former Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices, Dr Ballard met with young people who have been taking part in Titanic-themed art projects organised by Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour and Titanic Foundation Ltd.   Among those meeting Dr Ballard were children from Avoniel Play Centre, Duncairn Community Centre and Morton Community Centre who took part in a Titanic-themed summer scheme for 500 young people organised by Belfast City Council, Titanic Foundation Ltd and Play Resource.

Dr Ballard’s expedition discovered pieces of Titanic’s wreckage at 12.48am on the morning of Sunday, September 1st, 1985 in a stretch of the north-west Atlantic known as ‘Titanic Canyon’.  After 73 years, the first identifiable part of the ship to be seen again was a boiler lying two and a half miles below the surface.  The jubilant mood of celebration on board the exploration vessel changed when the time approached 2am, the hour Titanic sank on April 15th, 1912.

Recollecting his memories, Dr. Ballard said: “I raised the Harland & Wolff flag, the emblem of the Belfast shipyard that built Titanic.  I wasn’t trying to be theatrical, it just seemed the right thing to do.  The weather was beautiful: the sky was clear and filled with stars, the sea calm. Except for the moon it was just like the night Titanic went down.”

Dr. Ballard will be returning to Titanic Belfast on April 14th 2012 to provide a Memorial Lecture. The attraction opens officially to the public on Saturday March 31st, 2012, the anniversary of the laying of Titanic’s keel.