When the Titanic sank in 1912, the famous ship wasn't exactly sailing in obscurity. Yet it took decades before the wreckage was discovered. It wasn't until Sept. 1, 1985—30 years ago Tuesday—that scientists, after years and years of searching, found what they were looking for.
As shown by these photos, taken that year and shortly after, the ship was in surprisingly good condition considering the time that had passed. Robert Ballard, the leader of the discovery expedition, told TIME that month that the ocean had shielded the grand liner and kept it a "museum piece."
But the find was exciting for more than the Titanic's history. As TIME explained, the discovery proved that the rest of the ocean's mysteries were now fair game:
In a sense, it was a dream fulfilled for all seafaring scientists. To locate one of the most technologically advanced vessels of its day, the researchers employed the most advanced technology of today. A team of 13 Woods Hole investigators sailing on the U.S. Navy research vessel Knorr joined forces with a contingent of French scientists aboard the Suroit, operated by the Paris-based Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER). The two ships bristled with several million dollars' worth of sophisticated equipment. It included a high-resolution sonar device that can trace precisely the contours of the ocean floor, and a compact submersible vessel towed like a sled on a cable, which relayed photographs and videotape confirming the Titanic find. For some of the investigators, the biggest thrill was that their experimental equipment worked. ''This allows us to open up deep-sea exploration on a much, much larger scale than before,'' says Woods Hole Director John Steele. ''We couldn't ask for more.''
Read more from 1985, here in the TIME Vault: After 73 Years, a Titanic Find