Northern Ireland

Titanic search was US 'front for Cold War mission'

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Media captionTop-secret mission behind the Titanic's discovery

The search which uncovered the wreckage of the Titanic was a front for a secret US mission to recover two Cold War submarines.

The expedition in 1985 was led by a former US naval intelligence officer, Dr Robert Ballard.

He said he had been tasked by President Ronald Reagan to carry out the search for the two lost submarines.

Dr Ballard said that "conveniently between the two (submarines) was the wreckage of the Titanic."

The exploration in September 1985 found the ship lying at a depth of 2.5 miles.

It was discovered some 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada.

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Image caption The Titanic sank in April 1912 with the loss of more than 1,500 lives

Speaking to National Geographic, he said: "Most of the Cold War was fought underwater and most of it was never known to the American people.

"President Reagan wanted me to carry out a mission to recover two Cold War submarines...conveniently between the two was the the wreckage of the Titanic.

Image caption Former US President Ronald Reagan ordered the top secret mission to recover two lost submarines

"I only had 12 days left on the mission when I found it," added Dr Ballard.

At the time, the research team released photos of the wreckage, but said they had no plans to salvage the ship or explore its contents.

The following year Dr Ballard returned to the site and made eleven dives to the scene in a three man submarine.

The Titanic, the world's largest passenger ship when it entered service, was built in Belfast.

It sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

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