The footage was captured in 1986, but most of it has never been released. It was filmed on a return expedition to the site after one of their teams discovered the wreckage in 1985 using a towed underwater camera.
The WHOI made the first trip to view the sunken vessel by using a three-person submersible named Alvin, and a newly developed remotely operated vehicle, Jason Jr.
To capture the footage, they made 11 dives nearly four kilometres below the ocean surface.
Its release “marks the first time humans set eyes on the ill-fated ship since 1912 and includes many other iconic scenes,” the WHOI adds.
“The first thing I saw coming out of the gloom at 30 feet was this wall, this giant wall of riveted steel that rose over 100 and some feet above us,” Robert Ballard, one of the mission’s explorers, told The Associated Press.
“I never looked down at the Titanic. I looked up at the Titanic. Nothing was small,” he said.
He said there was no human flesh or bones left, but he saw shoes, including footwear of what appeared to be a mother and a baby that looked like tombstones marking the spot where some of the roughly 1,500 people who perished came to rest on the ocean floor.
The Titanic was thought to be virtually unsinkable when it was built and held the title of the largest ocean liner in service at the time.
On its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York, it struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912. The boat sank, leaving more than 1,500 people to perish in the North Atlantic.
Although recovery efforts began immediately, the wreckage wasn’t located until 1985, when a team from WHOI and the French National Institute of Oceanography found the sunken ship broken in two pieces southeast of Newfoundland.
The unveiling of this footage coincides with the re-release of the 1997 film Titanic on its 25th anniversary. The movie won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
“More than a century after the loss of Titanic, the human stories embodied in the great ship continue to resonate,” director James Cameron said in a release.
“Like many, I was transfixed when Alvin and Jason Jr. ventured down to and inside the wreck. By releasing this footage, WHOI is helping tell an important part of a story that spans generations and circles the globe.”
This most recently released footage is a stark contrast to more recent, high quality footage captured last year. While the more recently shot footage offers a better, more detailed glimpse of some of the boat’s impressive features, it’s clear that over time the Titanic has not been immune to decay.