Return to Titanic

Bookshelf: Return to Titanic

Return to Titanic – Robert D. Ballard & Michael Sweeney

Return to Titanic
Published by National Geographic

Robert Ballard is a highly respected ocean explorer whose career I would love to have. He’s the man who headed the American team that discovered the wreck of the Titanic, 4 kilometres down in the north Atlantic ocean. I thoroughly enjoyed his account of the discovery and exploration of the wreck – there’s something incredibly eerie about a ship that was once lit up and bursting with human life and possiblities, now lying alone, far deeper than any passing traffic (apart from ocean creatures) could hope to spot it. Between visits by the researchers, film crews and treasure hunters, it lies abandoned.

The Titanic has made a lot of people – Robert Ballard included – very wealthy. This is one of at least three other volumes he’s published on the wreck, and the fame that resulted from its discovery in 1985 has made him a household name and enabled him to cash in with numerous other publications on undersea exploration.

This book details a return to the wreck made by Ballard in 2004, along with a lot of supplementary material. There are beautiful old photos taken of the ship in the shipbuilders’ yard, passenger photos, and other historical material. He recounts the sinking of the ship, and his discovery of the wreck in 1985. So there’s not much new here – most of this was covered in Robert Ballard’s Titanic. The things that did stand out for me were the details of the damage done to the wreck by treasure hunters and film crews, the map of the debris field, and the successive pages with mosaic photos of the wreck enabling a study of the deterioration that has happened in the 20 years between the discovery of the wreck and the 2004 visit.

It’s a great pity that the final resting place of over 1500 people has been plundered and picked over by souvenir hunters. Tacky plastic flowers and a row of plaques have been placed on the stern by visiting submersibles, and important parts of the wreck – such as the crow’s nest – have been hacked off and removed. Gashes have been cut in the side during collisions with submersibles, and there are marks on the deck where the submersibles have parked to have a look around. Fortunately laws have been signed protecting the Titanic and hopefully preventing further assault by the greedy and careless. We must commend Ballard for his involvement in defending the wreck.

Buy the book here if you are in South Africa, otherwise here.


Published by


Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

One thought on “Bookshelf: Return to Titanic”

Leave a Reply