Here's an odd fact to get your head around: the wreck of the Titanic was first found by people who were only pretending to look for the wreck of the Titanic.
This isn't a situation where they were meant to be looking for the Titanic, but did a lot of goofing off and pretending that they were looking before accidentally bumping into it. The team who discovered it – led by Robert Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel – were actually on another mission and using the Titanic as a cover story.
Ballard – a former US Navy officer – and Michel revealed in 2008 that they had actually been tasked with finding two US Navy submarines. The USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion both sank in the Atlantic. As well as wanting to know the fate of the subs, and whether the Scorpion had been sunk by the Soviets, the US wanted to know whether the nuclear reactors that powered the ships were impacting on the environment.
The team located both ships and determined that Thresher had likely sunk after a power collapse, while the final hours of the Scorpion and its crew of 99 is less certain, with theories ranging from it being sunk by a Soviet torpedo attack, to an implosion. Ballard's team found evidence that flooding had taken place at the front of the ship, while the rear remained airtight until it sank too far and pressure caused it to implode like parts of the Titanic.
Ballard had extra ambitions for the trip. He had first gained the job whilst trying to seek funding to seek out the Titanic, but the navy told him that they were interested in the technology, but only to look for the subs. However, Ballard was able to secure permission from his paymasters to actually look for the Titanic – in between the two subs – if he had time, though he was reminded by his superiors that his primary mission was to search for the subs.
The team, amazingly, found the Titanic, making their alibi pretty much airtight. When you tell people you were looking for the Titanic and then you find it, nobody tends to ask, "Right, what were you really up to, hmm??". The Navy, however, was not so happy.
"The Navy never expected me to find the Titanic, and so when that happened, they got really nervous because of the publicity," Ballard told National Geographic in 2008, revealing the real nature of the mission. "But people were so focused on the legend of the Titanic they never connected the dots."