Explorer who spotted Titanic says his mission was plot to trick Russia

The man who found the remains of the Titanic said in a recent report that his discovery was part of a "top secret" deal made with the U.S. Navy in order to help elude Russia in the 1980s. In a mission that would be branded as a pursuit for the missing ocean liner, he would also search for two vanished, sunken U.S. nuclear submarines that the Navy wanted to track down before anyone else – including the Russians – could, he told CBS News.

Reflecting on the secrecy of the mission, oceanographer and Naval Reserve commanding officer Robert Ballard told the outlet that the goal was to recover the Scorpion, which disappeared beneath the Atlantic in the 1960s along with the Thresher.

"And so I said, 'Well, let's tell the world I am going after the Titanic,'" Ballard told CBS.

In 1982, three years before the Titanic’s eventual discovery, Ballard was working on a remotely-operated underwater vehicle, the outlet said.

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However, because he reportedly lacked the necessary grant money, he turned to the Navy for assistance.

"He said, 'All my life I've wanted to go find the Titanic.' And I was taken aback by that," Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Ronald Thunman told CBS. "I said, 'Come on, this is a serious, top secret operation. Find the Titanic? That's crazy!'"

Thunman reportedly acquiesced but had one condition: with the money, Ballard also had to locate the two submarines.

"So, it was a deal – you'll let me do what I want to do, if I do what you want to do," Ballard told CBS of the agreement.

The Scorpion aspect of the expedition reportedly required more time than anticipated, leaving Ballard with less than two weeks to focus on the Titanic. But the process wound up being beneficial.

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"I learned something from mapping the Scorpion that taught me how to find the Titanic: look for its trail of debris," Ballard told the outlet.

Ballard reportedly managed to locate the ship in eight days, leaving him just a few more to record what was found.

And what had at first been an exciting moment, quickly changed, he recalled.

"We realized we were dancing on someone's grave, and we were embarrassed. The mood, it was like someone took a wall switch and went click. And we became sober, calm, respectful, and we made a promise to never take anything from that ship, and to treat it with great respect."