Treasure hunters Mike Harris and Jack Grimm discuss their efforts to find the sunken RMS Titanic, the famed cruise liner that sunk on April 15, 1912. The explorers talk about their motives and methods for finding the wreckage.
Treasure Hunters Discuss Endeavor to Find RMS Titanic
TOM BROKAW, anchor:
One of the great tragedies of the world, the Titanic. It was 68 years ago, this year, that the Titanic, then the biggest and the most luxurious ship ever built, they called it unsinkable, but it went down as we all know after sticking an iceberg and it sank in the North Atlantic in 12,000 feet of water. There we 2,224 people aboard, more than 1,500 people went down with the ship to a water grave 380 miles off Newfoundland. No one has seen the Titanic since that time of course, that was April 1912, but now, early in July, a group of American adventurers and scientists will set out to try to locate the ship, photograph it, and then next year, perhaps even begin to recover the millions of dollars worth of jewels and other treasures that were thought to be aboard.
The leader of the expedition is Mike Harris, who in the past has searched unsuccessfully for Norah’s Ark in Turkey and for Pancho Villa’s treasure in Mexico. And the search for the Titanic is being financed by a Texas oilman whom I am also told is a poker player, this is big stakes here, his name is Jack Grim, he’s from Abilene. In the past he’s financed searches for the Loch Ness monster in Scotland and in the California wilderness for Bigfoot, Sasquatch. Well, we’re going to talk all about that this morning and what they’re up to. First of all, what in the world gave you the idea that you could find the Titanic in 12,000 feet of water? That’s down there where no life or even sunlight exist, Mr. Harris.
MIKE HARRIS (Expedition Leader): Well you know, in the past, I’ve looked like you-- you’ve talked about on in the beginning there, trying to find Pancho Villa’s treasure, trying to find Norah’s Ark on Mount Ararat, maybe those things are true, maybe they’re not. The Titanic is true. The Titanic sank at a certain spot in the ocean, off of Cape Race, Newfoundland, and we’ve done a lot of research on it, we know the immediate vicinity, so then it becomes just the getting the right scientists and oceanographers to put their scientific apparatus through that area and we’re sure we will be able to locate the Titanic.
BROKAW: What makes it so appealing to you, Mr. Grim?
JACK GRIM (Expedition Sponsor): I think it has never been found, there were many prominent people on board, it has been one of the great sea mysteries of all time. Why was the ship going through iceberg-infested waters at 22 and a half knots per hour?
BROKAW: But you won’t find the answer to that when you get down there?
GRIM: Well, perhaps we will, in the ship’s-- some of the ship’s cabin’s-- the captain’s cabin records.
BROKAW: Let’s talk about where the ship went down. And it seems to me that what you’re doing, makes looking for a needle in a haystack child’s play. That’s a vast body of water out there in the North Atlantic. Here we have a map of the general area and what you’re going to do is plot it in 5-square mile areas. Is that what it’s going to be?
HARRIS: Well, roughly. You know, what we’ve done is-- the Titanic sent out its messages where it thought it was, okay. We don’t think it was exactly in the right place, but other ships heard these messages, these signals, and they plotted to where they thought the Titanic was, several hours later they arrived and they picked up the survivors at a certain specific place. If you plot all of these locations, you’ll find out that they’re within a six-by-ten mile area. So what we are doing is gridding that area off and in fact expanding it by about 15 miles, by 15 miles, and start a search pattern through that particular area.
BROKAW: So what you hope to do this summer, I guess Mr. Grim, is to locate it through sonar devices of one kind or another, make a determination that that is the Titanic and then go away and plan for what, a whole other year before you can start a recovery operation.
GRIM: Well this summer, we have contracted Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory from Columbian University here in New York, we’ll have some of their oceanographers on board, Mike Rawson, Dr. Bill Ryan. We also have Dr. Fred Space from SCRIPPS Institute of Oceanography in University of California in San Diego, or La Jolla.
BROKAW: And what do you want to do when you find the Titanic down there? Do you want to take pictures this summer? Will you be able to lower a camera do you think?
GRIM: This is correct. We will have some of the most sophisticated sonar gear ever built, along with a camera sled with three different cameras so we will take pictures of the wreck area, then we will also be doing a-- writing a book about it, we have Bill Stevenson doing our book, we think, and we also have a docudrama for television and the theaters and some magazine writing.
GRIM: It’s a multimedia presentation we have here.
HARRIS: It is. Yeah it really is. In fact, we even have our mascot is called Titan from Busch Gardens. So we’ve got quite a crew.
BROKAW: All right, it’s almost like it’s produced from Universal Pictures. Let’s talk about the ship it self, this incredibly luxurious cruise liner at the time and what you expect to find down there. As I’ve been reading about your project, you expect it to be fairly well preserved because it’s on 12,000 feet of water, it’s very cold water, so you may even, what, find the bodies of the people who went down preserved?
HARRIS: Well, some of the scientists speculate that some-- they’re divided, nobody knows, that’s one of the things we’ll find out. But the ship itself should be in an excellent state of preservation.
BROKAW: In terms of what you are going to find in their, do you know that there is 250 million dollars worth of diamonds in the purser’s office?
GRIM: No, we don’t know that. This is a speculation. We know there are valuables on board, but that’s not our primary concern. We’re interested in locating it, because it’s never been done before and filming the tear in the right side, which was a tear some 300 feet long, 5 feet wide, on the starboard side of the ship.
BROKAW: Now, what you do next summer is lower a small, specially-designed submarine that’s owned by--
BROKAW: It’s not right?
HARRIS: No, not right. We’re going to go down next summer in the deep diving submersible, the Illuminaut, owned by Reynold’s International, it’s the largest--
BROKAW: Well that’s what I was talking about, right.
HARRIS: And while we’re down there, with the scientists and the oceanographers and the filmmakers, we’ll send two robot camera systems inside of the Titanic and we’ll be able to monitor where exactly where it goes inside the Titanic from television monitors inside the sub down on the bottom next to the Titanic. And we ought to be able to get fantastic pictures.
BROKAW: But that sub has never been down 12,000 feet before. I mean, it’s been down, to what, 7,000 feet?
HARRIS: Seven-thousand feet, that’s correct. But the design depth is 15,000 feet. The crush depth, I hate to say that, is 20,000 feet. But we’re well within the limits, and they’re sure we can get down there safely.
BROKAW: Once you locate these things, will you have other robots that will be able to retrieve items from the various cabins and so forth?
GRIM: Yes, Captain Marquel will be the captain of the submarine, and that we’ll probably have a seven-man crew in the sub. The sub has nine-foot arms, which it can do a great deal of probing, the arms are capable of lifting several hundred pounds, so there are many things that can be recovered. We’ll also drag the area down current from the wreck area and see if we can’t recover some artifacts this summer, and that equipment is all being constructed now and we shall be leaving July the 11th from Port Everglades,
BROKAW: Mr. Grim, how much is all this going to cost you?
GRIM: I don’t know.
BROKAW: Give us a rough guess.
GRIM: I don’t know, we have an open-ended budget, I want to do it right, the equipment, when we finished with it, will be donated to Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, it is a grant going to an educational institution. And we already know that they are going to use the equipment for some other government projects.
BROKAW: Well, politely, briefly, let me put it another way, how much are you prepared to spend?
GRIM: Well, it’s an open-ended budget.
BROKAW: (Laughs) Texas oilman and a poker player.
HARRIS: It’s a lot of money. It’s a lot of money.
BROKAW: It’s a lot of money, it’s more than 38 dollars and 15 cents. Thanks very much, it’s a fascinating story, and we’ll keep posted on this.