Dec 6, 2005 12:36pm

Tuesday, Noon

1,500 people died on the Titanic.  The story never does.  We’re on deadline for this evening’s World News Tonight.  There’s been a new expedition to look at the wreck, 13,000 feet down, and they say the ship broke into three pieces, not two as previously believed.  That would suggest that the ship’s final moments would have been mercifully shorter than you see in James Cameron’s film.

The leaders of the new expedition, which was done for the History Channel, say the bottom of the hull separated from the rest of the ship before the bow and stern separated.  Most versions of the story have the stern standing on end in the water, taking about 20 minutes to sink after the bow had.  The new guys say it may have been more like five minutes.

So we have a lot of irons in the fire, trying to figure this out for tonight.  One thing that concerns me is that Robert Ballard, who found the wreck 20 years ago, doesn’t buy into all this.  "They found a fragment, big deal," he’s quoted as saying to an AP reporter.  "It hit an iceberg and it sank.  Get over it."

ABC’s 20/20 visited the wreck with Robert Ballard last June.  For more, click HERE.


4:45 PM

Well, these things happen–consider the Titanic story sunken for now.  Producer Barbara Friedman and I spent all day anxiously on the phone, calling historians, oceanographers, producers at the History Channel, Titanic enthusiasts, and we finally hit a dead end.  Barbara reached Richard Haas, author of a Titanic history, who had been on three expeditions to the wreck site.  He said they’d seen the "new" third section of the ship back in 1998.

In fairness to the people who went on the August expedition, they weren’t out claiming yet that they’d made a big discovery–they apparently were holding a meeting to figure out for themselves what they had, and an Associated Press reporter discovered them.  (One of them–asking not to be quoted because he’s working for the History Channel–does say they think their information will shed new light on how quickly the Titanic broke up, and how well the ship’s builders did their jobs.)

So no story tonight, but the Titanic does still fascinate, even after 90 years.  I remember reading Walter Lord’s book, A Night to Remember, as a kid, and not sleeping very well that night.  If you have a copy, or if you can get your hands on one, don’t skip the foreword.  The last paragraph will give you chills.


Intelligent Design Update

Remember the story last week about Paul Mirecki, the Kansas University professor who was going to teach a course on intelligent design, but it was canceled after he bragged about ticking off Christian conservatives: "this will be a nice slap in their big fat face."

It gets uglier.  Mirecki now says he was beaten up on a country road by two men who followed him in a pickup truck. 

“I didn’t know them, but I’m sure they knew me," he said to the Lawrence (Kans.) Journal-World.

And it gets even uglier than that.  The paper quotes a local "conservative activist" who suspects Mirecki made the whole thing up.  “The one thing that could save his bacon is to become a martyr of sorts, or to elicit sympathy from being the victim rather than the persecutor.”

Enough!  Gotta go. 

- Ned

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