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:
Read more from 1985, here in the TIME Vault: After 73 Years, a Titanic Find
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