...Rolex Super Coolness...
Discovering & Exploring The Titanic
A Brilliant Career With Rolex Keeping The Time Of His Life
Before we get underway with this Rolex history I must offer very special thanks to my pal, David Concannon for his invaluable contribution to this story. Ralph White was David Concannon's best friend and this story is dedicated to the memory of their friendship...
To this day, whenever anybody speaks of the RMS Titanic story it still sends shivers down peoples spine. The epic story of the Titanic is the thing that dreams are made of. More than a hundred years ago, construction began on the RMS Titanic in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Titanic was the mother of all luxury ships and many, many millions of man hours went into her construction.
This is an amazing story about intersecting worlds and a true Rolex explorer and submariner named Ralph White. In many ways Ralph White is an unsung hero, but that all changes today on Jake's Rolex World. You see, the thing that inspires me to dig deeper into researching these amazing Rolex history stories, has little to do with the watches, but instead the people who wore and wear them.
It is challenging to try to articulate what makes people strive to achieve amazing feats with Rolex watches on their wrist, but they do. This is an undisputed fact. It is almost as if the Rolex tool watches have a soul of their own, that inspires people to think differently and aspire to achieve great things!!!
Raising The Titanic
Making The Dream Reality
with Rolex Keeping Time
This is a story about a man who achieved many amazing things in his life. Ralph White was a cameraman for National Geographic for a quarter-century and he was part of the team that not only found the RMS Titanic buried in its watery Atlantic grave, but also raised a good part of the Titanic and its amazing treasure.
Ralph White is pictured below in 1987 out in the Atlantic Ocean with the RMS Titanic's Bell he discovered and brought up topside. Notice he is wearing his trademark stainless steel Rolex Submariner [Reference 1680] on his right wrist–Steve McQueen style!!!
What Kind Of Man Wears Rolex?
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Rolex Watch Corporation methodically marketed its tool watches to men of action “a special kind of man,” in the words of Rolex’s advertising at the time, who was willing “to face the silent perils of the maritime underworld” while wearing “a special kind of watch: a watch he’s willing to stake his life on.”
Such men were featured in a series of Rolex ads, under the banners: “If you were working here [4,000 feet deep under the sea in a research submersible] tomorrow, you’d wear a Rolex.
A Rolex ad from 1968 read: “If you were looking for lost empires here [diving in the Yucatan] tomorrow, you’d wear a Rolex.”
The Real Deal
A Real Tool Watch for A Real Submariner
Few men, of course, fit the description of this “special kind of man,” although many undoubtedly have fancied themselves as such. There was, however, one exception: Ralph B. White.
Ralph White was born in California during World War II and raised in Hawaii. After graduating from military school, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1960, just as little known conflict was boiling over in a far off land known as Viet Nam. White served six years in the Marines, including two tours of duty in Viet Nam as a Force Reconnaissance Team Leader conducting raids behind enemy lines. During his military service in Southeast Asia, White acquired the first timepiece he would stake his life on, a Rolex GMT-Master (Ref. No. 1675).
After his discharge from the military in 1966, White opened a parachuting school in Lancaster, Calif., became a member of the U.S. Parachute Team and pursued his love of photography. Always a tinkerer, he developed a helmet cam for filming aerial scenes, and he became a free-fall cameraman for the TV show Ripcord. Thus began a distinguished career as an award-winning cinematographer, video cameraman and editor that lasted for more than 40 years, including more than 25 years as a contract cameraman for the National Geographic Society.
White eventually had hundreds of motion picture and television credits to his name. He was a field producer and cameramen for the television series Those Amazing Animals, That’s Incredible, as well as Animal World, Challenging Sea, Treasure, Islands In The Sun, True Adventures, The Wonderful World of Women and Wanderlust. White documented the behind-the-scenes makings of several major motion pictures, including The Deep, Tora-Tora-Tora and The Valley Of The Dolls. He covered the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, NBC’s Sports In Action and CBS’ Sports Spectacular.
But White is best known for his work at the National Geographic Society, where he and his best friend and frequent partner, photographer Emory Kristof, pioneered the development of advanced remote cameras, 3D Video, HDTV, and deep ocean imaging and lighting systems.
Together, White and Kristof filmed the Discovery of Active Volcanic Vents along with their unique biological colonies in the deep waters of the east Pacific rise and Mid-Atlantic ridges, the first multinational Exploration of Lake Baykal in remote Siberia, and hundreds of species of whales and sharks, including the largest ever seen flesh eating shark, a 30 foot long Somniosus Pacificus.
Ralph White traveled to both poles, searched for the Loch Ness Monster, and filmed the 153-year-old wreck of the H.M.S. Breadalbane under the Arctic ice cap in 1984, with Dr. Joe MacInnis, which the following add is based upon:
Ralph White's NGS credits include Loch Ness, Suruga Bay, Wild Horses, Reptiles, Sharks, The Beebe Project and The Great Whales, which won the coveted Emmy Award for Best Documentary. White’s cinematography also won the Grenoble Film Festival Gold Medal, Golden Eagle, Cindy and Golden Halo awards.
Somewhere along the way, White lost his coveted Rolex GMT-Master. Shortly before going off to Loch Ness, Scotland in 1978, White replaced his GMT-Master with another Rolex, a Submariner Date (Ref. No. 1680). He would depend on this watch for the next 30 years, through some of the greatest expeditions of the later part of the 20th century.
While he was in Loch Ness with Kristof, a photographer named David Doubilet, and a young oceanographer named Robert Ballard, Ph.D., White, Kristof and Ballard hatched an idea to search for the Holy Grail of underwater exploration, the R.M.S Titanic. Ralph White is pictured below with Dr. Robert Ballard.
David Doubilet is no stranger to anybody familiar with Rolex DEEP-SEA photography, and he is pictured below in a recent Rolex DEEP-SEA, SEA-DWELLER ad. As I just mentioned, David Doubilet was one of the original team members of the group that decided to try and find the Titanic with Ralph White.
In 1978, Ralph White served as a cameraman for the National Geographic Team that deployed a 12,500 foot deep ocean imaging and lighting systems from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Evergreen over the reported sinking site of the Titanic. The expedition was unsuccessful, but the concept was sound. The hunt for the Titanic was then put on hold while White and Kristof went off to the High Arctic to film the wreck of the H.M.S. Breadalbane with Dr. Joe MacInnis.
In the summer of 1985, White was the cameraman for the four man American Team of Dr. Robert Ballard, Emory Kristof and Billy Lang, beginning Phase One (the sonar search) for the R.M.S. Titanic aboard the IFREMER research vessel Le Suroit utilizing the French “S.A.R.” side scan sonar system. This six week search covered 90 percent of the area where the Titanic was thought to have foundered, and it has been credited with discovering where the Titanic was not located.
The search resumed in August, with White serving as the cameraman for Phase Two (electronic imaging search) aboard the Woods Hole Research vessel Knorr, but not before the team first found and investigated the sinking of two American nuclear submarines, the U.S.S. Scorpion and U.S.S. Thresher, which had sunk under mysterious circumstances during the height of the Cold War in the 1960s.
Discovering The Titanic
After investigating the sinking of these two submarines, White and Ballard’s team aboard the Knorr found the wreck of the Titanic on September 1, 1985. When Dr. Robert Ballard first laid eyes on the Titanic, Ralph White was standing right next to him, filming his reaction and recording the time on his Rolex Submariner [Reference 1680]. That is Ralph White pictured below with the white T-shirt, filming the moment of the Titanic discovery.
In 1987 and 2000, White co-directed the recovery of over 5,000 artifacts from the Titanic wreck site. Among other things, White recovered the ship’s bell from the Titanic’s crow’s nest the telemotor and ship’s wheel from the bridge as seen below.
Ralph White documented just about every inch of the Titanic exterior with camera's and in the photo he took below we see the Titanic's bow.
In 1991, Ralph White was the submersible cameraman and host for the IMAX feature film Titanica; and in 1995-96, he was the expedition leader and second unit cameraman for James Cameron’s Academy Award winning feature film Titanic. Ralph white is pictured below with Titanic director James Cameron.
Ralph White is pictured below with Emory Kristof, and James Cameron.
Ralph White eventually made 35 dives down to the 12,500 foot deep wreck of the Titanic, spending more time on the Titanic than Captain Smith himself. Captain Smith, who was the Captain of the Titanic is pictured below.
Ralph White was qualified as a copilot on the French Nautile and Russian Mir submersibles.
White finished his film-making career working on a number of projects with James Cameron. He was operations supervisor of the Medusa ROV for Cameron’s 3D IMAX film Ghosts of The Abyss, and technologies coordinator for Cameron’s live broadcast from the deck of Titanic for the Discovery Channel’s Last Mysteries of Titanic. White was also the deep sea imaging and guest wreck expert for the History Channel’s Titanic’s Final Moments.
White always relied on a Rolex watch during these expeditions, usually his beloved Submariner.
Ironically for an American, White was knighted for his filming and conservation accomplishments. He was a Knight of the Order of Saint Lazarus and a Knight of the Order of Constantine. More traditionally, his extensive field experience was recognized and rewarded by his peers in exploration.
White was a Fellow of The Explorers Club and a recipient of its prestigious Lowell Thomas Award for life achievements in underwater exploration. He was also a Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society in London; a Fellow and Chairman of the Board of The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences; and the President of the Adventurers Club in Los Angeles.
Ralph White died suddenly on February 4, 2008, just a few months after participating in his final expedition. He was 66. His collection of Rolex watches, including the 1978 Submariner that he relied on during countless expeditions, many of which were featured in Rolex advertisements over three decades, currently belongs to his family. He can be seen in the photo above sporting his stainless steel Rolex Explorer II with a white dial.
There is a book titled "Three Miles Down" and chapter 10 is about Ralph White. In the book, Ralph White is described as "The envy of every red-blooded 10 year-old boy" and hopefully from enjoying this article you understand why. The Los Angeles Times wrote a fascinating article about Ralph White when he passed away which I recommend reading. It talks about how Ralph's friends have carried out his last wish which was to take his ashes to every continent.