The iconic bow of Titanic as seen from a MIR submarine from the Russian Academy of Sciences

Diving to the wreck of Titanic

BBC Northern Ireland's environment correspondent Mike McKimm dived to the wreck of Titanic in 2005, capturing exclusive footage of the ship on the ocean floor.

The submarine spent five hours exploring the wreck, including iconic sights such as the bow and grand staircase.

Photo: The iconic bow of Titanic as seen from a MIR submarine from the Russian Academy of Sciences

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More information about: Diving to the wreck of Titanic

The fascination with the wreck of Titanic began not long after the ship sank to the bottom of the north Atlantic, some 676 kilometres off Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, almost four kilometres below the surface. Early plans to find and raise the wreck were hindered by a combination of technical limitations and prohibitive cost.

By the 1980s, technological advances in sonar scanning made the dream of finding the wreck a tantalising possibility. The wreck of Titanic was finally found in 1985 by a Franco-American expedition headed by oceanographer Robert Ballard.

Many subsequent expeditions followed, most famously those of James Cameron. The film director used footage gathered from eleven dives to the wreck in his 1997 blockbuster, Titanic.

BBC correspondent Mike McKimm participated in a dive to the wreck of Titanic in 2005 in order to place a memorial plaque on the bridge of the ship. It reads "In memory of all those who died on RMS Titanic. From Harland and Wolff and the people of Belfast."

Submerged in a small Russian MIR submarine with Irish diver Rory Golden and pilot Anatoly Sagalevich, Mike captured remarkable footage of the ship's bow. This included the Marconi Room from which radio messages were sent and received, the forward mast, the grand staircase and the captain's quarters.

Also filmed was the debris field between this section of the ship and the stern, which lies hundreds of yards away after Titanic snapped in half close to the surface.

The famous ship is deteriorating rapidly, overwhelmed by the relentless spread of rusticles (named by Robert Ballard on account of their icicle-like shape) which are eating the manganese, iron and sulphur out of the steel and weakening the wreck.

It is estimated that Titanic will be unrecognisable as a ship within a hundred years, eventually becoming nothing more than an iron ore deposit at the bottom of the ocean.