For nearly a century, we’ve been captivated by stories of the beloved Titanic, the “unsinkable” luxury liner that tragically sank in the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. We remember the stricken passengers and crew, caught in one of the worst tragedies in maritime history. But over the years, a number of interesting artifacts have been discovered among the wreckage, revealing some fascinating stories and information about the sinking of the Titanic.
Exploring the Titanic Wreckage
On September 1, 1985, a joint US-French expedition discovered the wreck of the Titanic on the floor of the North Atlantic. This exciting discovery, which finally put an end to all the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the giant luxury liner, also kicked off decades of archaeological explorations into the sinking, during which researchers were able to document and photograph the remains of the ship, as well as to identify and recover thousands of artifacts.
Below is a brief outline of some of the archaeological data that have been obtained from the Titanic wreckage, further revealing the stories of the fateful night when the great ship went down.
The Two Pieces of Remains That Refuse to Part
When the wreckage of the Titanic was first discovered, it was fascinatingly still intact, though heavily damaged beyond recognition. In fact, one of the most surprising and heartbreaking discoveries from the debris field was of two pieces of the ship, still connected by the large bolts that had held them together, despite their long ordeal at the bottom of the ocean.
Into the Deep
To this day, researchers continue to explore the underwater wonders of the remains of the Titanic, diving deeper and deeper into the depths to uncover and explore more of the wreckage. To date, more than 5,300 artifacts have been discovered and catalogued, providing a unique window into the lives of the people on board the night of the sinking.
Titanic’s Cargo: From Luxurious Items to Household Goods
The artifacts that have been found among the wreckage of the Titanic are a mixed bag. Among the luxury items like dinner plates of fine china and Tiffany gold, there have also been some surprisingly ordinary items, like boots, cassettes, keys, and even pocket watches.
Yet, despite the intriguing nature of some of the cargo, one of the artifacts unearthed has been the most talked about: a safe that was recovered in 1987.
The Intriguing Contents of the Locked Safe
In October 1987, the safe was found at the bow of the Titanic’s stern section. When brought to the surface, it was still locked and officials assumed that it contained something valuable and worth uncovering. After a few years of effort, the safe’s secrets were finally unlocked in the early 1990s and its contents revealed.
Within the safe were two gummed envelopes, with the sender’s name written in ink on one of them. The envelopes contained letters, a couple of postcards, and two leather pouches, with one containing an ornate silk lady’s purse, and the other a paper packet filled with small chunks of coal.
The sender’s name was identified as Abraham Lincoln Salomon and it turns out that he was indeed a passenger on the Titanic and had perished in the sinking.
One of the letters revealed his address in New York City and the other told of his family’s journey from Romania to the United States. From the postcards and the coal in the packet, it was deduced that he was bringing the coal back to New York to use as fuel for his family home in Romania.
Telling Tales of Lives Lost
The recovery of artifacts from the wreckage provides a connection to the fateful night of April 15, 1912 and adds to our understanding of the tragedy that unfolded. Through exploration of the wreck, photos of the remains and recovery of artifacts, researchers are better able to piece together the heartbreaking stories of the passengers and crew of the Titanic.
For instance, items such as a playing card and a pair of shoes belonging to a first-class passenger spoke of the hopes and dreams of those aboard the doomed vessel. On a similar note, one of the recovered artifacts, a pocket watch belonging to a crewman, has been described as the “heartbeat” of the ship, signifying the fleeting moments of life before the ship’s tragic end.
The Resurrection of the Titanic: Organizing Future Efforts
In recent years, a new organization, RMS Titanic, Inc., was founded to continue the search for and recovery of artifacts from the shipwreck. This non-profit organization, established in 1987, has been in charge of the archaeological research of the wreck and has been working in conjunction with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to explore and excavate the remains of the Titanic.
In addition to undertaking a number of archaeological expeditions, RMS Titanic, Inc. is also responsible for the preservation of the artifacts they recover. They have, in fact, opened two permanent exhibits, one in Las Vegas, Nevada and another in Orlando, Florida, which showcase a number of artifacts and related memorabilia found among the wreckage.
The surprising artifacts found at the Titanic wreckage, have truly captivated our imaginations and have been an ongoing source of fascination over the years. While much has been learned from these unique artifacts, there is still so much to explore and investigate about the terrible night of April 15, 1912. RMS Titanic, Inc. continues to lead the efforts to uncover the secrets of the ship, organizing a number of archaeological expeditions including one in 2020 which will explore never-before-seen sections of the wreck.
The artifacts that have been recovered from the Titanic wreck have taught us much about the lives of those who were aboard the ship and the fateful night of April 15, 1912. The results of archaeological explorations of the remains continue to provide an invaluable insight into the history of the Titanic and those who perished in its sinking.