Argo was the unmanned sub used to locate the Titanic. It is a steel sled towed by a cable just above the sea floor that photographs the ocean bottom with video cameras.

Angus was an older sled that takes still photographs captured the first photographs.

Alvin is the three-person submarine that carried Bob Ballard to the decks of the Titanic two and a half miles down on the sea floor (12,460 feet). Here water pressure is about 6,000 pounds per square inch.

Alvin was officially named for oceanographer Allyn Vine, a scientist who first convinced the Navy to build a manned submarine. Originally commissioned in 1964, the Alvin has been retrofitted many times as diving technology has advanced. In 1973, its aluminum hull was replaced with one of titanium, doubling its maximum diving depth without adding more weight. Alvin and Bob Ballard also explored the deep-sea vents on the ocean floor in 1974. (According to Dr. Ballard, the Alvin is unofficially named for Alvin the Chipmunk.)

Jason Jr. is a remote-controlled underwater robot that explored the interior of the sunken Titanic on Ballard's second expedition. It was operated by a remote control "joystick" to probe inside the Titanic to take still and video images. It went into the grand ballroom, captain's stateroom, and down several flights of stairs. It was tethered to Alvin via a long cable.

Research Some Names in Nautical and Mythical History

  1. In ancient Greek mythology, Jason and his Argonauts were adventurers who sailed on the ship Argo to find the Golden Fleece. Share this legend with students.
  2. Write a paragraph about why you think Bob Ballard adopted those names for his "explorers."
  3. Discuss some other mythical references. Would any of these be appropriate names for research vessels? (Atlantis, Poseidon, etc.)

Titanic Nicknames

The Titanic was known as:

  • The Millionaire's Special
  • The Wonder Ship
  • The Unsinkable Ship
  • The Last Word in Luxury

How did it earn these nicknames?

You may want to think up a more suitable nickname, in light of what happened.

What does "titanic" mean?

Distress Signals

The Titanic tried to communicate with other ships in the area by sending out radio distress calls and by sending up flares. The nearby California thought the flares were a fireworks display to entertain the passengers. The ship's radioman had gone to bed and never received the call.

Find out what the international distress call is (SOS; it was CQD at the time of the accident) and how it would be relayed by Morse Code. Then write your name in Morse Code or tap it out by sound.

Last Song

Music plays a central role in the mystique of the Titanic's last moments.

Those in the lifeboats heard the band playing as the ship slipped beneath the waves.

Reports differed as to the Titanic's last song. Mrs. A. A. Dick claimed she saw the band lined up on deck playing "Nearer My God, to Thee." Another passenger said they were playing "Autumn," an Episcopalian hymn. This image of the brave orchestra playing until the end fired the public's imagination, which had an insatiable appetite for eye-witness accounts of the final moments of the Titanic.

Joseph Conrad, a writer of that period, dismissed the controversy over the last song as sentimental fluff. He called it "music to get drowned by." "It would have been finer if the band of the Titanic had been quietly saved," he stated, "instead of being drowned while playing-whatever the tune they were playing, poor devils."

Try to find these songs to play for the class or other music that would have been popular during the early 1900s. (Hymnals may have them.)

What songs of our own era might have been appropriate as a last song?

Have students suggest song titles from their own music. (Some suggestions we received: Last Dance, Flash Dance, Last Waltz, I Ain't Gonna See You No More, Splish, Splash, A Hard Day's Night, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, If I Had a Hammer.)

The sinking of the Titanic generated its own songs, including:

  • "It Was Sad When the Great Ship Went Down,"
  • "Just as the Ship Went Down," by Edith M. Lessing
  • "The Band Played 'Nearer My God, to Thee' as the Ship Went Down"
  • "Wreck of the Titanic."

Perhaps students could make up their own song titles (and lyrics) to fit the occasion. Sea chanties and ballads like Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," Dan Fogelberg's "The Reach" and songs by Gordon Bok and Schooner Fare may inspire them.


  • Jason and the Argonauts Legend, by Bob Ballard