It won’t be cheap and it won’t be easy, but if having the chance to personally witness the Titanic shipwreck is a once-in-a-lifetime dream experience you would like to fulfill—there is now a way to do so. Undersea exploration company OceanGate Expeditions is hosting Titanic survey expeditions starting in May 2021 and is looking for citizen scientists to join the crew.
OceanGate will be sending its five-person submersible, Titan, on a series of 10-day Titanic expeditions (there will be six missions in total next year) that will each include a small group of experts and researchers, along with citizen scientists. Individuals interested in joining these deep-sea research missions will need to apply and be interviewed before being approved to participate in the dives.
Potential eligible participants must be at least 18 years old at the time of the expedition, must be able to board Zodiacs in rough water, and must demonstrate basic balance, mobility, flexibility, and strength.
“We refer to those supporting the mission as mission specialists. They are active, trained participants in the expedition. They are not tourists or travelers. This is an important distinction. This is a true expedition environment and every crew member, including the mission specialists, are crucial to the successful completion of our mission objectives,” OceanGate said in a statement sent to AFAR about the expeditions.
Indeed, the training is rather involved. Mission specialists must complete a training dive mission prior to joining one of the Titanic survey expeditions. With the training mission under their belt, they will then be expected to participate in various support roles on the Titanic dive, including operating sonar and laser scanners, assisting with navigation and sub-to-surface communications, documenting their observations, and taking photos and video footage of sea life, the shipwreck, and artifacts using onboard cameras.
They will also be asked to participate in processing and reviewing images and footage from the dive and to contribute to a detailed review and analysis of the data.
Each of the six missions has up to nine slots for qualified citizen scientists (there are multiple dives per mission)—who must also be willing to invest $125,000 to have this truly unique experience.
Each dive will begin with a briefing, followed by a 90-minute descent to the Titanic site. During the descent, teams look for bioluminescent lifeforms. Once at the site of the shipwreck, they will spend about three hours exploring. With the help of the submersible’s bright exterior lights, the team will observe areas that include the bow section of the ship (the most impressive part of the wreck, according to OceanGate), the area where the ship’s grand staircase was located, the bridge remains, and the debris field where century-old artifacts have been scattered across the ocean floor. The teams will then embark on the 90-minute ascent back to the surface.
The Titanic shipwreck was discovered on September 1, 1985, by oceanographer Robert Ballard. It is located 12,467 feet below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface about 370 miles southeast off the coast of the Canadian province of Newfoundland. Nearly 1,500 people perished when the luxury passenger liner Titanic sank in April 1912, while sailing from Southampton, England, to New York City.
“Expeditions will be conducted with great respect for those who lost their lives in the tragic sinking of the Titanic,” OceanGate told AFAR. The company said it plans to observe the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s guidelines for exploration of the Titanic, as well as UNESCO’s guiding principles for the preservation of underwater World Heritage sites.
“Our main mission objectives include observing and documenting at a safe distance, and not touching or landing on the Titanic. We will be documenting the site for future generations and going back annually to document and determine the rate of deterioration of this historic site,” OceanGate explained.
The six anticipated missions for 2021 are currently scheduled to take place on May 30, June 8, June 16, June 24, July 2, and July 10. The inaugural mission will mark the first time in 15 years that passengers have been able to visit the wreck, Bloomberg reports.
As for precautions that will be in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, OceanGate is mandating that crew get tested for COVID-19 and wear masks; it also is having crew members quarantine in advance of the expeditions. The company has added air filtration systems on its submersible.
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