The pandemic has hit the tourism industry especially hard over the past year, but starting in May of 2021, those itching to travel again — at least straight down — will have the opportunity to visit the most infamous shipwreck of all time. But while airlines and resorts have been slashing prices to encourage people to travel again, visiting the Titanic is an excursion for the one per cent.
A century after the ship, ironically thought to be unsinkable thanks to its innovative double-hulled design, went down after hitting an iceberg in 1912, and decades after the wreckage was finally discovered by Dr. Robert Ballard in 1985, hundreds of people have visited the site, included film crews for James Cameron’s Titanic. A Washington-based company, OceanGate Expeditions, will be returning to the Titanic’s final resting place for a series of research expeditions running from May to September over the next few years, and will be inviting a small number of guests to tag along.
Stockton Rush, the president of OceanGate Expeditions, worked with Boeing and NASA to design and build his carbon-fibre submarine called Titan featuring a 21-inch circular window allowing two occupants to peer outside the craft which can descent to depths of 5 km — or just slightly deeper than the depth of the Titanic wreck. The submarine can hold a crew of just five people; a pilot, a scientist, and what the company will be calling three “mission specialists” who’ve each paid $US125,000 ($171,875) for the eight-day adventure.
The purpose of the descents will be research-based. Rush hopes to study how the ship is decaying over time, document the thousands of artifacts that surround the wreckage in a large debris field, catalogue some of the 300 types of creatures that now call the Titanic home, and use laser scanners and sonar to create a detailed 3D model of what’s left of the ship and the debris surrounding it. Rush also intends to turn a profit on the expeditions, and told Bloomberg that requires him to “charge at least $US100,000 ($137,500) to make money.”
Paying customers aren’t just along for the ride, however, they will help with the research being conducted on board the sub and the support vessel on the surface which boasts a larger crew of 50 to 60 scientists, engineers, and experts in the field. The expedition makes the Titanic one of the most expensive tourist destinations on Earth. By comparison, climbing Mount Everest with an experienced guide and Sherpas will cost you upwards of $US45,000 ($61,875) — a relative bargain by comparison.