Thursday, April 12, 2012
7 News Features: The Truth About the Titanic
One hundred years ago, 400 miles east of Canada, the unsinkable Titanic sank. And for the last century, people have debated what made the ship go down so quickly. Tonight, one Florida man, who has actually been down to the Titanic, may finally have the answer. Here's Patrick Fraser with his special report: "The Truth about the Titanic."
WSVN -- When he was 8 years old, Bob Williams' grandmother gave him a book on the Titanic. He was hooked.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "It's been sort of a lifetime passion."
Many people are fascinated by the biggest ship of its time that sank on April 14, 1912.
But very few people have been able to see the sunken Titanic.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "There are fewer people that have been to the depth of the Titanic than have been in outer space."
Bob has been able to dive down to the Titanic twice, the first time with his wife in the small Russian submarine, Mir One.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "You get a chill, it's an experience unlike anything else I have experienced."
The two-and-a-half-mile trip to the bottom of the North Atlantic is fascinating to see, much less experience.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "This is what you see: All these bioluminescent creatures. It's like sitting in a field and seeing a multitude of different fireflies."
And in two separate 12-hour dives, Bob got to look at what few people have ever seen.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "Here, we are coming up on the bow of the Titanic."
The Titanic broke into two large pieces.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "And these engines are four stories tall. To give you some idea of scale, there is a grenadier fish, and that is about four feet long."
The debris scattered across the bottom of the ocean.
The eye-openers: A trunk, still closed after 100 years; pottery; and bottles of champagne.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "Those were formally in a crate. The crate dissolved away, but they are there stacked on the bottom."
You see shoes, a reminder of the 1500 people who died and sank 100 years ago.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "You will see pairs of shoes. There was somebody in them, but they dissolved."
Patrick Fraser: "It was an incredible experience for Bob, twice diving down to see the Titanic laying on the bottom of the ocean. But sightseeing is not what he remembers most. It's what he discovered."
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "I think I have solved the major mystery of the Titanic."
As Bob saw the remains of the Titanic, he says he was able to prove that historians were wrong, wrong about what caused the so-called "unsinkable ship" to sink.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "They speculated faulty rivets, faulty materials, all sorts of contradictory evidence. That couldn't have been it."
For 100 years, experts have said the Titanic sideswiped the iceberg, ripping holes in the side of the ship and plunging it to the bottom of the ocean.
Bob discovered something different.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "I have never believed the Titanic sideswiped the iceberg. It grounded on the iceberg. It actually was bottom contact on the iceberg."
Ninety percent of an iceberg is underwater. Bob says as the Titanic raced across the berg, the steel plates on the flat-bottomed ship were ripped off. But Bob says something more deadly was happening in the rear.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "If all the damage was in the front, why didn't it break up there?"
Since the titanic was so long, builders installed expansion joints to allow the ship to flex ... And when it hit the iceberg the ship twisted.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "It flexed, and when it flexed, it compromised the keel."
The rivets connecting the vertical steel plates near the rear of the ship popped.
Bob uses a sheet of paper as an example. Without the support from the sides, it bends, and without the support from the vertical steel plates, the Titanic cracked in half and sank.
The final piece of proof for Bob: This vertical steel plate from the bottom on the ocean that shows where the rivets sheared.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "That piece was right there where the expansion joint was, vertical longations."
If the boat had not broken in half, Bob says it still would have sunk. But instead of two and a half hours, it would have taken much longer, giving nearby ships a chance to rescue the passengers.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "It gives me chills now seeing it in film, knowing I was there."
Bob paid $60,000 to dive down to see the Titanic. He may go again this summer. And he says sadly, in the future, there won't be much to see if people dive down to the Titanic.
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "It's starting to cave in. The rusticles in 2001 were consuming the iron on the Titanic at an estimated 800 pounds a day."
Patrick Fraser: "So what you saw, 20 years from now, 10 years from now, another diver won't see?"
Bob Williams, Dove To Titanic: "No, no, no."
The Titanic is slowly disappearing as its eaten by rusticles. But at least Bob Williams was able to see and finally prove what caused the ship to sink 100 years ago.