The film opens on the fictional island of Svardlov in the Barents Sea north of the Soviet Union where an American spy breaks into an old mine where he discovers the frozen body of a US Army sergeant and mining expert Jake Hobart. Next to Hobart's corpse is a newspaper from November 1911, as well as some mining tools from the early part of the 20th century. Using a radiation meter, the spy discovers that what he seeks, an extremely rare mineral named byzanium, was there but had been mined out leaving only traces. He is then chased and shot by Soviet forces, but is rescued at the last moment by Dirk Pitt (Richard Jordan), a former U.S. Navy officer and a clandestine operator.
It is explained by scientist Gene Seagram (David Selby) and the head of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA, a NASA-like agency for sea exploration) Admiral James Sandecker (Jason Robards) that the mineral their man was trying to find is needed to fuel a powerful new defence system, codenamed "the Sicilian Project". This system, using laser technology, would be able to destroy any incoming nuclear missiles during an attack and "make nuclear war obsolete".
The CIA and Pitt soon find out that boxes of the raw mineral were loaded onto the Belfast-built RMS Titanic by an American in April 1912. A search is then conducted in the North Atlantic to locate the sunken ocean liner. The search team is aided by one of the Titanic's last survivors (Alec Guinness), who explains he was also the last person to see the American alive. Just before the Titanic foundered, the sailor said the man locked himself inside the ship's vault containing the boxes of mineral, his last words being "thank God for Southby!" At this point it is decided that the only way to get a hold of the byzanium is to literally "raise the Titanic" from the ocean floor. Pitt comes up with a salvage plan that Sandecker presents to the U.S. president. The president signs off on the plan and Pitt is put in charge of the operation.
At this time the Soviet KGB station chief in Washington D.C., Andre Prevlov (Bo Brundin), is receiving bits of information on the project and leaks them to a reporter, Dana Archibald (Anne Archer), who is also Seagram's lover as well as a former girlfriend of Pitt's. The story blows the project's secret cover and Sandecker must hold a press conference to explain why the ship is being raised. Questions are raised about byzanium, but are not answered.
After a lengthy search, the Titanic is located and the search team, with help from the U.S. Navy, begins the dangerous job of raising the ship from the seabed. One of the submersibles, Starfish, experiences a cabin flood and implodes. Another submersible, the Deep Quest, is attempting to clear debris from one of the upper decks when it suddenly tears free of its supports, crashes through the skylight above the main staircase and becomes jammed. Pitt decides they must attempt to raise the ship before the Deep Quest crew suffocates. Eventually, the rusting Titanic is brought to the surface by using explosives to break the hull loose from the bottom suction and compressed air tanks to fill buoyancy aids. During the ascent, the Deep Quest safely breaks away from the ship.
When Prevlov, who has been aboard a nearby Soviet spy ship, sees the Titanic, he arranges a fake distress call to draw the American naval escorts away from the operation. He then meets Sandecker, Pitt, and Seagram aboard their vessel. He tells them that his government knows all about the mineral and challenges them for both salvage of the Titanic as well as ownership of the ore, claiming it was illegally taken from Russian soil. Prevlov says that if there is to be a "superior weapon" made from the mineral, then "Russia must have it!" Sandecker tells Prevlov that they knew he was coming and that he would threaten them. Pitt then escorts him to the deck where U.S. fighter jets and a nuclear attack submarine have arrived to protect the Titanic from their attempted piracy. Prevlov leaves in defeat.
The ship is then towed into New York harbour and moored at the old White Star Line dock, its original intended destination. The arrival is greeted with much fanfare, including huge cheering crowds, escorting ships, and aircraft. On entering the watertight vault, the salvage team discovers the mummified remains of the American, but no mineral. Instead, they find only boxes of gravel. As they contemplate their probable failure, Sandecker tells Pitt and Seagram that, in addition to powering the defensive system, they were actually thinking of a way to weaponise the byzanium and create a superbomb, which went against everything the scientist believed in. As Pitt listens, he goes through the belongings of the dead American found in the vault and finds an unmailed postcard. He then realises that there was a clue in those final words, "thank God for Southby!". The postcard showed a church and graveyard in the village of Southby on the English coast, the place the American had arranged a fake burial for the frozen miner Jake Hobart prior to sailing back to the United States on the Titanic. Pitt and Seagram alone go the small graveyard and find that the byzanium had indeed been buried there. They decide to leave the mineral in the grave because they agree its existence would destabilise the status quo that maintains the peace between the West and the Soviet Union.
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
- When Dana Archibald runs into Pitt on the street, the traffic behind her alternates between flowing and stopped. The changes in traffic flow are possibly due to traffic lights.
- Pitt has just come from a meeting where the secrecy of the mission has been stressed, and the decision is clearly stated that no outsiders should learn about the project. But John Bigalow seems to already know before the news is leaked, and asks Pitt to put back the Titanic's pennant when the ship is raised. Bigalow is smart enough to work out the real reason for Pitt’s interest, and his motivations.
Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers)Edit
- In an interview, John Bigalow says "She was one of a kind," which is emotionally true, but technically incorrect. The Titanic was the second in a series of 3 ships. The Olympic, launched before the Titanic, was identical to it, aside from some interior configurations and fittings. The Britannic, launched afterward, was slightly larger, with a modified design. How can Olympic be identical if it had different interior configurations and fittings?
- Sandecker tells Pitt that they "got all the stuff from the White Star Line; engineering drawings and a complete structural design for the Titanic." White Star Line merged with Cunard Line in 1934, becoming Cunard White Star, Ltd. By the end of 1949, Cunard acquired the rest of White Star's assets, and changed its name back to Cunard. No ship has flown the White Star flag since 1968. Also, in 1980 the blueprints and drawings for the Olympic and Titanic were believed destroyed when the Luftwaffe bombed the Belfast shipyards during WWII. A surviving set of structural blueprints for the Olympic class was discovered in the late 1990s. It’s possible that, as the blueprints and drawings were only believed destroyed, there might have been some records stored elsewhere, possibly on microfilm.
- SPOILER: When the Starfish accidentally exceeds the 12,000-foot depth limit, it takes several minutes to leak, flood, and implode. A submersible that sprung a leak at that depth and pressure (>600psi) would implode in seconds. It could have been a very slow leak. Also, such a blast, having the effect of a depth charge, would have destroyed or at least severely damaged the other submersible, which would have to be very close (less that 6 feet) to get a visual contact at that depth. Yet, her occupants do not feel anything. Maybe they were lucky enough to have visual contact from outside the blast zone.
Incorrectly regarded as goofsEdit
- The Titanic broke in two as it sank, and the stern section suffered major structural damage, perhaps due to implosion from water pressure. Those facts were only discovered when the ship's remains were found in 1985. Eyewitness testimony soon after the sinking was conflicting. In 1980, it was generally accepted that the Titanic sank intact.
- When the Titanic sank, its masts and funnels were ripped off and the Grand Staircase's dome imploded. The damage was discovered in 1985, when the wreck was found. It was unknown when the film was released in 1980, and when the novel was published in 1976.
- When the Titanic has been raised and the scientist hoists the White Star company flag, he hoists it from completely the wrong place. That flag wasn't flown from the flagstaff at the stern – it belonged at the top of the mainmast. As someone who has studied the Titanic, this scientist would surely have known this. The stern flagstaff is easier to reach. Besides, the Main mast could havd been declared off limitd for safety reasons, due to possible corrosion after decades under the Atlantic.
- When the real Titanic sank, the first funnel broke off and fell into the water. This was reported by many eyewitnesses, including passengers and officers. In the movie, the first funnel is intact and it is the second funnel that is broken off. I read somewhere that the movie makers did this for aesthetic reasons. Still, it is a factual error. Corrected by GalahadFairlight Many of the 'eyewitnesses' also said that the Titanic didn't break apart when clearly she did. Raise the Titanic never was nor ever claimed to be a historically accurate depiction of the Titanic.
- The Soviets are trying to claim the Titanic, and they land a Soviet helicopter on the deck of the Titanic. The problem is that this Helicopter is really a U.S made Huey (like the ones flown in Vietnam) with a red star painted on the side. (Quite obviously it would be hard to acquire a real Soviet helicopter, however, this is still a mistake.) There are, and were in the past, American aircraft in Russia, including many Cessnas at an airport near Moscow. There are also Russian planes in the States. By their very nature, aircraft are all over the world, and have been for decades. In addition, given the timescale, this could have been a US helicopter captured during the Vietnam War, and then passed to the Soviet Union for use in clandestine missions such as this. [N 2]
- ↑ Adapted from the novel Raise the Titanic! by Clive Cussler
- ↑ This is listed as a Factual error on the goofs page of this film’s IMDB entry.