(Washington, D.C. – April 22, 2004) The most famous shipwreck in modern history, the R.M.S. Titanic continues to captivate our imagination and to draw audiences into the mystery of her death almost a century after her fatal collision with an iceberg. Now a destructive combination of natural forces and human intrusions is threatening to force the complete collapse of the wreck into the ocean floor. Almost two decades after discovering the sunken wreck of the Titanic, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Robert Ballard is returning to lead a scientific expedition on an urgent quest to determine the factors hastening its ultimate deterioration.
On Monday June 7, 2004 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, National Geographic Channel (NGC) will provide audiences with unprecedented access to the ongoing expedition by broadcasting a one-hour special “Return to Titanic.” The telecast will originate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research ship Ronald H. Brown and include a live telecast from Titanic’s watery grave, some 12,000 feet under the Atlantic Ocean.
NGC will also offer viewers an interactive opportunity to explore Titanic online at www.nationalgeographic.com/channel/titanic.The site will launch as the expedition leaves in late May and will feature daily dispatches and photos from the ship, along with other background on Titanic and interactive activities. Online explorers can also go to www.returntotitanic.com to access all expedition partner websites, each of which will feature unique content related to the expedition.
“Return to Titanic” will follow the expedition’s progress every step of the way and bring viewers right up to the moment as the show concludes live from almost 2 ½ miles beneath the sea. This television event will be hosted onboard by Jay Schadler, Emmy® award-winning ABC correspondent and NGC veteran. Schadler will follow Dr. Ballard’s progress and guide viewers through each phase, both above and below water, allowing audiences to experience the expedition’s investigation as it unfolds.
National Geographic and Dr. Ballard share a long legacy with the Titanic which began with its discovery in 1985 and the publication of Dr. Ballard’s first-person account in the National Geographic magazine article, “How We Found the Titanic.” A year later the story continued with the article “Long Last Look at the Titanic,” and the National Geographic EXPLORER program “Secrets of the Titanic,” which debuted on Turner Broadcasting Station to record-breaking audiences. During the past 19 years the great ship has been the subject of books, stories and maps in National Geographic Kids magazine and other National Geographic publications. The legacy continues this spring with the National Geographic Channel special “Return to Titanic” and the publication of a book of the same title written by Dr. Ballard with Michael Sweeney, expected November 2004.
“I’m returning to Titanic to see what has happened to the ship in the almost 20 years that have elapsed since I first discovered her,” said Dr. Ballard. “Using high-definition cameras, we will take images of the ship and its surrounding debris field and compare them to the images we made in 1985 and 1986. This will allow our team of scientists, and the viewers at home, to contrast the ship’s past and present and see the level of change for ourselves.”
Since its discovery in 1985, more than 6,000 artifacts have been salvaged from Titanic, tour companies have visited the site, and environmental factors have degraded the ship. NOAA will use the scientific clues from the expedition to help unravel the many factors impacting the site and help determine the extent each is contributing to its disintegration.
Dr. Ballard has assembled an impressive group of expedition partners aboard the research ship, who will spend 11 days at the site mapping the Titanic and conducting a scientific investigation of its deterioration. The expedition partners include: NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration, the National Geographic Society, the University of Rhode Island’s Institute for Archaeological Oceanography, Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (MAIFE) and the JASON Foundation for Education. These partners will transport the expedition to the site, providing vital expertise needed to explore the wreck and document its progress. In a first, the JASON Foundation and the MAIFE Immersion Project will allow people to interact with the expedition and preview the making of this extraordinary documentary online and via “telepresence” sites across the country.
The expedition will study Titanic using state-of-the-art submersible robots named Hercules, Argus and Little Hercules, while forensic experts and microbiologists will examine the ship’s condition. Footage from the expedition will be shared with scientific communities and audiences using sophisticated satellite telecommunication systems, advanced Internet technology and digital imagery.
Dr. Ballard has led or participated in more than 100 deep-sea expeditions using deep-diving submersibles, many of which have been supported by National Geographic and been subjects of highly acclaimed documentaries. In addition to his discovery of the ocean liner Titanic, he has also located the German Battleship Bismarck, 11 warships from the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the U.S. aircraft carrier Yorktown and John F. Kennedy’s ship torpedo boat PT-109. His accomplishments also include the first manned exploration of the mid-ocean ridge and the discovery of hydrothermal vents (or hot-water springs) in the seafloor and their unusual animal communities in the Galapagos Rift.
“Return to Titanic” is produced for the National Geographic Channel by Partisan Pictures. Executive Producer and Director is Peter Schnall, with Executive Producer Hilary Sio and Producers Tracey Barry and Tina Vér. For the National Geographic Channel, John Ford is the Executive in Charge of Production with Executive Producer John Bowman.
Based at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channel is a joint venture between National Geographic Television & Film (NGT&F) and Fox Cable Networks. National Geographic Channel debuted to an initial 10 million homes in January 2001, and has been one of the fastest growing networks in history. The Channel has carriage with all of the nation’s major cable and satellite television providers, making it currently available to more than 48 million homes. For more information, please visit www.nationalgeographic.com/channel.
For more information contact:
NGC/Russell A. Howard, VP of Communications, 917-690-5528, Rhoward@natgeochannel.com
National TV – CSPR, Cathy Saypol 212-288-8496, firstname.lastname@example.org
National Print – NGC/Alanna Zahn, 202-912-6720, email@example.com
Local Media – Fratelli Group/Eric Thomas, 202-822-9491, firstname.lastname@example.org