On April 14th 1912, some two hours after its fateful collision with an iceberg, the RMS Titanic sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It has remained at a depth of 13,000 feet ever since, romanticized by many (ahem, James Cameron), but seen by very few. Now, John O'Ceallaigh reports for the Telegraph, a luxury travel company based in London is offering eight-day journeys to the site of the Titanic, which will culminate in deep-sea tours of the wreckage.
Blue Marble Private plans to launch its tours, open to just nine people at a time, in May of 2018. The trip will begin with a helicopter ride from St. John’s, a city on the island of Newfoundland, Canada, to a yacht stationed near the Titanic’s resting place. Clients will spend the first half of the journey hearing from explorers, scientists and expedition crew so that they can learn about the workings of the ship. Those who are so inclined can participate in orientation sessions about deep sea diving, which will include instruction on operating sonars and using underwater navigation systems.
Days three to six of the trip are when clients will have the chance to travel to the depths of the ocean in a “specially designed titanium and carbon fibre submersible,” according to Blue Marble’s website. The equipment will let travellers, “glide over the ship’s deck and famous grand staircase capturing a view that very few have seen, or ever will.”
The expedition isn’t just for leisure: It’s part of a larger scientific expedition run by OceanGate Expeditions with a goal of creating the first 3D images of the Titanic in over a decade and documenting the current conditions of the ship. The tourists along for the ride will serve as “mission specialists” and the fees for travel will help fund the team’s scientific project.
The cost of this unique experience? A mere $105,129 per person. When you adjust for inflation, O'Ceallaigh points out the number is just about equal to the price of a first-class ticket for the Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912.
This isn’t the first time that tours of the ill-fated ship have been offered to those willing to pay the price. High-end travel service Bluefish also takes small groups to view the Titanic’s wreckage. The company Deep Ocean Expeditions once chartered dives to the Titanic, but discontinued its program in 2012.
Though the purpose of the latest expedition is more science than leisure, past commercial trips to the Titanic have been the subject of controversy, Brian Handwerk reported for National Geographic in 2012. Some concerns center around questions of propriety. More than 1,500 people drowned when the Titanic went under, and some experts and advocates believe that luxury expeditions to the site are in bad taste. Others worry that the wreckage is threatened by its increased accessibility.
"[W]e have smoking gun evidence of all kinds of damage,” Bob Ballard, a deep-sea explorer who discovered the Titanic’s ruins in 1985, told Handwerk. “We have a photo mosaic of the ship before any submarines showed up, and [today] we can show you where they’ve landed on the ship. We can show you where they knocked the crow’s nest off."
But it seems likely that thrill seekers with deep pockets will continue to seek out opportunities to catch a glimpse of the supposedly “unsinkable” ship. For better or for worse, the Titanic remains a source of fascination some 105 years after it plunged to the bottom of the ocean.
Editor's Note, March 24, 2017: This story has been updated to include the role of Ocean Gate Expeditions.