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Another Wreck and Cameron

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Sunday night on the Discovery Channel, James Cameron, Titanic’s “King of the World,” takes on another famous lost ship: The Bismarck, the German warship that went down in 1941 only nine days after it’s departure from Germany.

On the show’s site, you can examine the underwater wreckage of the ship, witness the Bismarck at war, and relive the expedition with Cameron:

    Last May and June, Oscar-winning director James Cameron led an expedition nearly three miles below the North Atlantic to film and study the legendary World War II German battleship Bismarck. The expedition’s findings will be broadcast in a Discovery Channel world premiere – James Cameron’s Expedition: Bismarck – at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8.

    In the meantime, you can explore the stories below for a taste of the expediton as it unfolded.

    May 18-27: Preview to an Adventure
    Before setting sail, James Cameron interviews veterans from both sides of the conflict.

    May 28-30: The First Dive
    After several days of stormy weather, the team gets a window of opportunity and heads into the abyss.

    May 31-June 3: Successful Shots
    The crew is elated at the imagery they’re able to bring back.

    June 4-6: Leaving a Legend
    Cameron and the crew leave with mixed feelings — having witnessed the majesty and decimation of the enormous battleship.

David J. Bercuson and Holger H. Herwig, authors of The Destruction of
the Bismarck,
served as on-camera consultants on the production, and their book is the official tie-in.

The NY Times reports today on some of Cameron’s findings:

    First, Mr. Cameron’s study of the wreck’s lower reaches and nearby debris fields led his team to a new explanation for the hull gashes previously attributed to torpedo hits or mechanical damage.

    The Bismarck, he said, suffered a “hydraulic outburst” when it hit the bottom. Girded by the armor belt, the ship was like a water balloon wrapped in duct tape and then dropped. The belt held, but inner forces caused the sides to bulge out and break in places — especially at the bottom, as the ship slid down the mountain slope.

    The surprise, Mr. Cameron said, came when his tiny robots were able to penetrate the gashes into the ship’s interior. In two cases, he came upon torpedo holes at the ends of long gashes. But upon sending the tethered robots even deeper into the ship, Mr. Cameron discovered that the torpedo blasts had failed to shatter its armored inner walls. All that was destroyed, he said, was an outer “sacrificial zone” of water and fuel tanks that German engineers had created to absorb torpedo hits and keep interior spaces dry.

    “The inner tank walls are untouched by any explosive force,” Mr. Cameron said. “So the armor worked.”

    The German sailors and officers at the heart of the wounded ship, he added, “were protected in the armored citadel.” The torpedoes, he said, caused “no significant flooding.”

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About Eric Olsen