The wreck of the ill-fated RMS Titanic has long fascinated historians, oceanographers, and filmmakers alike.

Now, an hour and 21 minutes of rare and mostly unreleased footage is about to be revealed to the public for the first time totally for free, hosted on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's (WHOI) YouTube page.

The uncut footage will be released live at 00:30 UTC on 16 February 2023 (19:30 EST on 15 February and 11:30 on 16 February in AEDT).

If you're reading this around the time of publishing, it's about to go live now, and you can watch it below.

Although this is the first time most of the footage has been released to the public, it was filmed in July 1986 by cameras on the human-occupied submersible DSV Alvin and the attached remotely operated craft Jason Jr, which was newly built at the time.

Alvin is a US Navy research submersible that was operated by WHOI, and Jason Jr was connected to it by a 300 foot (91 meter) fiber optic cable.

Jason Jr was remote controlled by the team and let them access and photograph areas of the wreck that Alvin couldn't reach.

Remote operated submersible photographing the Titanic
Remote-operated submersible Jason Jr investigating the Titanic in July 1986. (WHOI/YouTube)

What's really cool is that the day the footage was filmed was also the first time humans laid eyes on the ship since it tragically sank in April 1912.

The wreckage rests 12,400 feet (3,780 meters) underwater in the north Atlantic Ocean, around 370 nautical miles (685 km) south-southeast of the coast of Newfoundland.

Map showing resting place of Titanic
A map showing the resting place of the Titanic. (Uwe Dedering/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The wreckage was first discovered on 1 September 1985 during a mission run by WHOI and the French oceanographic exploration organization Institut français de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer.

It was initially spotted with a towed underwater camera, and then in July 1986, a crew of three people returned to the site to explore in more detail and capture the footage we're about to see today.

"The first thing I saw coming out of the gloom at 30 feet (9.1 meters) was this wall, this giant wall of riveted steel that rose over 100 and some feet above us," underwater explorer Robert Ballard, who was part of both the 1985 and the 1986 expeditions, said in an interview from Connecticut this week. The interview was reported by Rodrique Ngowi and Mark Pratt from Associated Press.

"I never looked down at the Titanic. I looked up at the Titanic. Nothing was small."

He has described seeing shoes left behind by those who were on the ill-fated voyage, and glimpsing the portholes of the ship.

"It was like people looking back at us. It was pretty haunting actually," said Ballard.

The footage is being released uncut and mostly unnarrated, and promises to take us through iconic scenes and rooms of the ship.

Based on previous videos we've seen of the Titanic, it's likely to be both nostalgic and a little chilling – a stark reminder of how fallible human technology can be in the face of nature.

We can't wait to take another trip back to the Titanic.