11 Questionable Suggestions for Raising the Titanic

Watch out for that iceberg!
Watch out for that iceberg! / The Print Collector/Heritage Images via Getty Images

In the 100-plus years since the RMS Titanic slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic, a wealth of ideas has been suggested for bringing it back up. Many of them were proposed even before the ship was located by Bob Ballard and crew in 1985. Let’s take a look at 11 of the strangest.

1. Fill the Titanic with ping-pong balls.

One of idea for raising the ship calls for filling it with ping-pong balls and letting their buoyancy raise the Titanic to the surface. This idea poses a lot of problems—like how you’d get the ping-pong balls down to the ship, and how you’d deal with the fact that the water pressure at the ship’s depth would instantly flatten them. The general idea was proven to be possible on a smaller vessel, however, during an episode of MythBusters.

2. Inject the Titanic with Vaseline.

According to a 1985 article, published just after the ship was located, a British underwater salvage expert proposed filling several polyester bags with 180,000 tons of Vaseline and placing them inside the hull of the Titanic. The expert theorized that the petroleum jelly would harden in the cold water and float the ship to a more salvageable depth.

3. Turn the Titanic into a giant ice cube.

Lest we forget, the Titanic collided with an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912, and sank a couple of hours later. In the same 1985 article, another salvager proposed wrapping the wreck in wire mesh and pumping liquid nitrogen around it. Allegedly, the nitrogen would freeze into a massive block of ice and allow the ship to rise to the surface. But this ironic idea didn’t really float with anyone.

4. Pump the Titanic full of boiling wax.

White Star Line poster of the Titanic.
White Star Line poster of the Titanic. / Culture Club/Getty Images

Wax floats when it solidifies, so why not just transport an insane amount of hot wax more than two miles down to the bottom of the sea, pour it into the ship, and wait for it to cool? It’s almost too obvious.

5. Recover a small piece of the Titanic.

In 1996, a commercial salvage company attempted to raise a 21-ton portion of the Titanic’s hull. The effort to bring up the 24-foot-by-16-foot section of the ship was monitored by 1700 people, each of whom had paid anywhere from $1800 and $6000 to watch from a nearby cruise ship. Engineers attached diesel-filled balloons to the piece to try to raise it to the surface. It was just 210 feet from hitting fresh air for the first time in 83 years when the lines hoisting it snapped and sent it plummeting to the ocean floor.

6. Tow the Titanic to the sea's surface with magnets.

Roughly a year after the Titanic's sinking, an architect named Charles Smith recommended finding the sunken ship, and then attaching ginormous magnets to its hull. The magnets would be connected by cables to a vessel at the surface. When the vessel reeled in the cable, the Titanic would be lifted.

7. Grab the Titanic with a colossal claw.

Some have suggested developing a huge claw to grab and raise the ship, like a gigantic version of the arcade game. Other entrepreneurs have proposed building a scoop of some kind to dig under the ship and raise it gingerly upward. None of these plans has materialized.

8. Reverse-engineer water to float the Titanic.

The ship was well-advertised.
The ship was well-advertised. / Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

One idea called for extracting hydrogen and oxygen from ocean water and using the elements to fill several containers attached to the ship. Theoretically, that would bring the ship to the surface. But the plan was too complicated and expensive, and was never attempted.

9. Just blow up the Titanic.

Just five days after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, Vincent Astor—son of John Jacob Astor IV, who went down with the ship—proposed locating and blasting apart the wreckage of the Titanic with dynamite. He hoped that the explosion would dislodge the body of his father, sending it back up to the surface. A shipping expert opined in the New York Evening Journal:

“Having found the boat, the rest would not be difficult, although we would be compelled to completely wreck the boat. A large quantity of gun cotton, between 300 and 400 pounds, heavily weighted, would be dropped into the wreckage. "An electric wire, connected with a battery, would be 'touched off'. We could use other explosives, if necessary, and the force of the explosions would be sure to bring all of the bodies to the surface."

10. Fill the Titanic with compressed air.

Clive Cussler's 1976 bestseller Raise the Titanic! spawned a movie of the same name in which U.S. forces successfully raised the Titanic to the surface and sailed it into New York harbor. The secret to making it work was injecting compressed air into the sunken ship.

11. View a 3D map of the Titanic instead.

Why raise the Titanic when you can get an incredibly detailed look at it online? An astonishing map of the wreck and its debris field was released in 2012 to mark the centennial of the Titanic's first and last voyage. It allows visitors to learn about the ship while leaving it in its final resting place.