Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Under Water

Hampton Sides writes the National Geographic cover story about—what else?—the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic

April 16, 2012 Amid the many books and articles commemorating the anniversary of the date the “unsinkable” Titanic sank to the floor of the Atlantic ocean a hundred years ago, Memphis native Hampton sides got perhaps the most visually arresting assignment of the bunch: in a cover story for the April issue of National Geographic, Sides describes the way technology has changed what we know about the ship. The explanation comes by way of a visit to the office of Bill Lange, head of WHOI’s Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Lange runs what Sides calls “a kind of high-tech photographic studio of the deep”:

Lange turns to his computer and points to a portion of the map that has been brought to life by layering optical data onto the sonar image. He zooms in, and in, and in again. Now we can see the Titanic’s bow in gritty clarity, a gaping black hole where its forward funnel once sprouted, an ejected hatch cover resting in the mud a few hundred feet to the north. The image is rich in detail: In one frame we can even make out a white crab clawing at a railing.

Here, in the sweep of a computer mouse, is the entire wreck of the Titanic—every bollard, every davit, every boiler. What was once a largely indecipherable mess has become a high-resolution crash scene photograph, with clear patterns emerging from the murk. “Now we know where everything is,” Lange says. “After a hundred years, the lights are finally on.”

Read the rest of the article—and see the pictures—here.

For more updates on Tennessee authors, please visit Chapter 16’s News & Notes page, here. Read Hampton Sides’s essay about Shelby Foote here.