In 1985 oceanographer and Naval Reserve commanding officer Robert Ballard stunned the world when he found the Titanic. But how he did it remained a highly-classified U.S. government Cold War secret for decades.
It starts in 1982, when Ballard, who had performed a number of top-secret Naval missions during the Cold War, was developing his own remotely-operated underwater vehicle.
Unable to get science grants, he asked Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Ronald Thunman if the Navy would help fund his project. “He said, ‘All my life I’ve wanted to go find the Titanic.’ And I was taken aback by that,” Thunman recalled. “I said, ‘Come on, this is a serious, top secret operation. Find the Titanic? That’s crazy!'”
Thunman did say yes, but only if Ballard used the funds and the time to find two missing U.S. nuclear submarines – the Thresher and the Scorpion – which had sunk in the Atlantic in the 1960s. The Navy didn’t want anyone else, like the Russians, to find the submarine.
The top secret part of the mission took longer than he expected, so when he found the Scorpion, and was finally free to look for the Titanic, he only had 12 days left. But his experience finding the Scorpion had been invaluable. “I learned something from mapping the Scorpion that taught me how to find the Titanic: look for its trail of debris,” Ballard said.
“So, you found it in eight days basically?” Reid asked.
“Yeah. And people had taken 60 days and not found it. I did it in eight.”
Read more at CBS.