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Scientific Community To Greet Titanic Discoverers

September 8, 1985 GMT

WOODS HOLE, Mass. (AP) _ An admiral, hundreds of oceanography workers, helium balloons and possibly a fife-and-drum band are expected on the docks of this tiny seaport Monday to greet the 25 scientists who found the remains of the mighty ocean liner Titanic.

″I would certainly like to be there when their ship pulls in, and I can imagine so would everybody else,″ said Nancy Green, a spokeswoman for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution whose researchers led the expedition that found the 73-year-old shipwreck.

More than 1,500 passengers went down with the Titanic, believed to be unsinkable until an iceberg slashed a 300-foot hole in its steel-armored hull on its maiden voyage. Other passengers were rescued from the liner’s lifeboats, which could fit only 700.

The ship was found Sept. 1 about 560 miles off Newfoundland in water about 2 1/2 miles deep.

The discovery, made while researchers were testing a remote-control submersible or unmanned submarine being developed for the U.S. Navy, was ″the biggest thing ever to hit this office,″ said Gordon Glass, executive assistant at the institute, the largest private center of its kind in the nation.

″It is excellent proof of the technology we developed,″ said John Steele, director of the 55-year-old institute. ″It demonstrates just what this country can do underwater.″

Ms. Green said most of the institute’s 900 employees would be at the dock Monday afternoon to meet the U.S. Navy research ship Knorr and its 25 researchers, including 15 from Woods Hole and three from the French Institute for Research and Exploitation.

Paul Dudley Hart, institute director of planning, had said Saturday that bad weather and a short swing off course could delay the ship. But it appeared to be on schedule late Saturday night, and a delay was unlikely, Hart said.

The ship left the Titanic site Thursday morning.

Marjorie Ballard, wife of expedition leader Bob Ballard, said she would bring hundreds of helium balloons and confetti.

Ballard heads the lab that designed Argo, the little submersible that carried floodlights and sensitive television cameras to film gaping holes in the Titanic’s hull and luggage strewn about the wreck.

Hart said he wouldn’t be surprised if employees organized a fife-and-drum band to greet the expedition. The impromptu band occasionally meets ships coming back from long research hauls, he said.

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Representing the U.S. Navy at the homecoming will be Adm. Bradford Mooney from the Office of Naval Research, which funded the $2.8 million Argo project and recently awarded Ballard an $800,000 chair for further deep-sea research.

Argo, designed to map the ocean floor, pinpointed the shipwreck that a French research ship had come close to finding in June.

French scientists have worked closely with Woods Hole for more than a decade, lending their U.S. counterparts data from their sonar scanners, the most advanced in the world.

″You have to understand how hard it must be on them, having missed the Titanic by about 300 yards,″ Ballard told Woods Hole directors in a radio report last week.

Hart said he did not know if any anyone from the French institute would be at Monday’s homecoming or at a news conference scheduled for Wednesday in Washington.

Secretary of the Navy John Lehman was expected to speak at the Washington news conference, sponsored by the National Geographic Society which sent two photographers on the expedition.