Titanic Wreck Found
Jack Grimm was the Texas oil prospector and adventurer who helped finance the Ballard search for the Titanic in the 1980s. At the time I was manager of the Cheers Nightclub in Abilene Texas. Jack was a great friend; sadly he died on 6th January 1998. In mid August 1985 Jack called me from his air-plane to meet him at the house. He wanted to show me a tape. When I got there, we went into his theatre and played the tape.At first I was confused about what I was watching. Coming into view was a huge piece of metal. As the camera got closer I noticed it looked like a propeller. Then, as the camera was moving up what appeared to be a rusty waterfall, a large white letter "T" became clearly visible.
Jack simply said; "We just found Titanic." This was three weeks before the public announcement by Dr. Robert Ballard, the oceanographer on 2nd September 1985 that the American and French research team had found the wreck of the RMS Titanic on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
Independently David Concannon from Wayne Pennsylvania, whose grandparents from Inishbofin Island, Connemara, Galway and Derry emigrated in 1910 and 1912, contacted us with this news.
After the finding of the wreck of RMS Titanic in 1985, I was an adviser to six expeditions and a participant in three. Seven weeks of my life has been spent at the Titanic wreck site, with more than 50 hours on the wreck itself during the course of four dives. I have also explored more than three square miles of the wreck site on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Both the story of the ship and the story of the sinking displayed on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, more than 2.5 miles down, are mystical; especially the reminders of the human element of the tragedy that lay in the debris field.
Although most of the Titanic has been eaten away by rusticles and the ravages of time, occasionally you come across small items among the large debris that still bear the markings of another era: handbags, binoculars, teacups and, of course, shoes.
Contrary to popular belief, shoes are not a common at the Titanic wreck site. When they are spotted, it takes your breath away each shoe is associated with its former owner. While the rest of the human body rapidly deteriorates underwater, tanned leather is resilient. Consequently, the body dissolves and the shoes remain. Because they serve as a tangible reminder of the tragedy that occurred on April 14-15, 1912, shoes are treated with great reverence and they are never recovered. During all my time on the bottom, it was rare that I would come across a shoe, and almost never a pair.
Until my last dive, that is, when we travelled far south of the main wreck site and into a field of debris strewn with shoes. They were everywhere, and I can only surmise that this was the spot where either many people came to rest or many shoes came to rest after they were dislodged by the kicking of dozens of victims of the sinking upon entering the frigid icy water.
The true story of the Titanic tragedy remains to be told. There were far more people of Irish, Italian and wider European descent on the Titanic who were travelling to America in search of a better life, than there were Astors or Wideners who had already achieved wealth and fame.
The story of many steerage passengers still has to enter popular culture, but I have seen the place where the human story ends, 2.5 miles below the Atlantic Ocean, in a lonely field of debris far from the main wreck site that we see in films, books and on television.