Titanic@100 Pt. 2: Secrets of the Titanic (Dr. Robert Ballard & Graham Hurley, 1986): USA

Reviewed by William Conlin. Viewed at National Geographic Online.

Part II of a review series pertaining to the sinking of the Titanic

Long before James Cameron’s epic film and while I was still a very young child I developed a great fascination with the sinking of the RMS Titanic. My self-described “obsession with Titanic” began with me stumbling across a National Geographic book about Robert Ballard’s expedition to find Titanic. I was amazed by all the incredible photos and artwork, but my amazement was soon blown out of the water when I saw the National Geographic documentary Secrets of The Titanic.

Narrated by actor Martin Sheen and starring marine archeologist Robert Ballard on his 1986 expedition to the RMS Titanic wreck, the hour long documentary details the infamous history of Titanic while highlighting the iconic moments of the wreck investigation. This film is literally a pioneer of the wreckage exploration genre. Along with Ballard’s other mid-80’s documentary Search for the Battleship Bismarck, this film set the stage for some of history’s greatest underwater finds.

Secrets of the Titanic is a seminal moment in the history of Titanic. For decades it was debated by survivors and historians as to whether Titanic split into two pieces or went down whole. Ballard proved once and for all that the ship was resting on the ocean floor in two pieces with a massive debris field bridging the gap. As Ballard explores the ship from his famous Alvin submarine, the viewer watches him go from dedicated scientist to a proverbial “kid in a candy store” and for those seeing the images for the first time, it’s not hard to feel the same way.

Even after watching this documentary numerous times throughout my life I still find it to be poignant and powerful. Also, although the film is now almost 30 years old and features older technology, the facts and grandeur remain the same. For anyone interested in a dated but strong piece, Secrets of the Titanic is a must-watch.

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