One hundred years ago, the unthinkable happened to the unsinkable.
Marking this anniversary, the National Geographic Channel commemorates the “ship of dreams” with “Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron" on Sunday, April 8, at 6 p.m. and “Save the Titanic With Bob Ballard" on Monday, April 9, at 8 p.m.
Filmmaker James Cameron, director of the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic,” who has been on 30 dives to the wreckage, brings together leading Titanic experts in “The Final Word.”
Cameron and his group discuss what happened after the Titanic struck an iceberg on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. The group reviews how the ship broke and how and why key pieces of the wreckage landed where they did. Actions that could have been taken by the ship’s crew to save more lives are also considered. Some of the information examined includes a revealing two-year study performed by the Navy.
“It was like going to an autopsy, and after several days of looking at this, it was quite a rude awakening,” says Ken Marschall, an artist who is also a prominent authority on the Titanic.
The documentary combines footage from underwater dives, clips from Cameron’s feature film and video from 2003’s “Ghosts of the Abyss.” Cameron also turns to computer artists to create a fascinating new animation that shows what likely happened as the ship broke and sank to the ocean floor.
While “The Final Word” examines the facts, “Save the Titanic” raises awareness of the looting of the wreckage site and explores the lives of the men who built the ship.
With the high value of Titanic-related items, a black market has developed, and recovered items have sold for tens of thousands of dollars at auctions.
“The Titanic is in greater peril than ever before,” Ballard says. “If the Titanic is not protected and there’s no guard on duty, it’ll get stripped. It’ll get stripped until all the jewels have been taken off the old lady’s body."
Ballard also tells the story of the “guarantee group,” nine men who helped build the ship and were selected to sail on its maiden voyage. These men worked feverishly after the ship hit the iceberg to help passengers.
Ballard journeys to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where more than 3,000 people worked on the massive ship for three years; visits the construction site and offices of the ship’s builder, Harland and Wolff; and meets with some of the descendants of the builders.
You can follow Jarrod Hiatt on Twitter at @jarrodhiatt.