Ballpark Estimate: $40,000
Most people know the tragic story of the RMS Titanic. This extravagant cruise liner, which spanned almost one-sixth of a mile long, was the largest ship ever built and also the most opulent. But despite its magnificent presence, it crashed into an iceberg on April 14, 1912 during its first transatlantic journey, and sunk shortly afterwards. While some of its passengers safely escaped in time on the limited number of lifeboats available, more than 1,500 of them went down with the ship.
Almost a century later, the Titanic lies deep at the bottom of the sea off the coast of Newfoundland, and the story of its ill-fateful journey continues to capture the interest of people from all over the world. In fact, a few people are even willing to invest a large sum of money to go and visit the wreckage site personally.
If you are interested in seeing the wreck of the Titanic yourself, there is only one company in the world, Deep Ocean Adventures, that is officially approved to visit it. Deep Ocean Adventures uses deep diving submersibles to carry people all the way down underwater to where the Titanic currently sits. According to the company’s website, the expedition offers a unique adventure and learning experience to the participants without disturbing the site itself in any way. The journey is led by a staff of expert Russian scientists from the P.P. Shirshov Instituteand the Russian Academy of Sciences. They are trained in operating submersibles and also in conducting scientific research and education on numerous levels, so the journey is a truly unique experience. But it is also out of the reach of the average person, as it requires a substantial financial commitment. (In fact, it is such an exclusive opportunity that more people to this day have actually traveled into outer space then ventured to the depths where the wreckage lays.)
The Titanic’s Ill-Fated History
The Titanic, which was owned by the White Star Company Line and built by an Irish shipyard called Harland & Wolff, was said to be the largest moving vehicle ever built. More than 14,000 laborers helped to construct the ship, which took a full four years to complete. The boat had a total of 20 lifeboats on board, which was more than the law required back then, but this wasn’t nearly enough to save all of the passengers and crew members.
When the ship struck an iceberg early on in her voyage, many of the passengers and crew flocked toward the life boats, but poor planning, combined with the panic that ensued, led some of the life boats to leave only partway full. In addition, many of the ship’s third class passengers were trapped onboard. And it wasn’t long into the crisis before the Titanic suddenly split apart and began to plunge underwater, taking the people left on its decks down with it.
Journey Down Under
Today, people who want to journey to see the historic ship’s final resting site begin the expedition in St. John’s, Newfoundland, since the wreckage lies in international waters about 370 or 380 miles southeast of the coast there. Passengers embark on a scientific exploration ship called the Akademik Keldysh, which carries two of the world’s five submersibles in the world that are able to reach the depth where the Titanic sits. These two submersibles on the ship are called the MIR I and MIR II (MIR means “Peace” in Russian), and it’s interesting to note that these were also used to film parts of the IMAX movie of the Titanic and to salvage some of the ship’s artifacts that now are housed in museums around the world.
A total of 16 passengers are usually taken on each planned expedition, along with the trained professionals. The group is divided up into smaller groups of three (two paying customers with one professional pilot/guide), who are taken into one of the submersibles (MIR I or MIR II) to visit the wreckage site while the rest of the participants stay behind, until everyone gets one turn.
While the timing of these expeditions can vary, they generally last up to about two weeks.
What to Expect
If you are one of the lucky few who get to participate in this expedition, you need to know what to expect. The submersibles go down about 12,500 feet or 2.5 miles and the journey there and back up can take a total of about 8 hours or more. The exact timing of it varies depending on the weather and water conditions.
When it is time for each small group to venture down under, the submersible will be lowered by crane into the ocean and released to begin descending at a rate of about 100 feet per minute. As you get lower, the color of the water will begin to darken, changing from green to blue to black. (Although it is worth noting that some dives take place at night, so in that case the water will appear black from the start but the time of day or night won’t affect the quality of the dive.)
Usually both submersibles are lowered one after another so they complete the journey is close proximity to one another. This enables them to photograph each other.
It takes each one approximately 2.5 hours to reach the Titanic site, where the ship lies in two gigantic pieces. Once there, the submersibles generally stay for about three or four hours, exploring the wreckage from different angles. The exploration includes viewing the bow area, which is about 400 feet long and is the most intact and also the most impressive section of the Titanic that is left. The stern section is about 330 feet. (There is also about 150 feet of ship that is missing and the pieces of this litter the ocean floor surrounding the stern section.) Passengers will be able to see the bridge and promenade and the area where the ship’s grand staircase had been located. Passengers will also be able to see the artifacts that remain on the ship, but it is important to note that you will not be able to try to salvage anything. This expedition is for research and adventure purposes only.
How to Prepare for the Journey
When you enter the submersible vessel, you will be in a small room that has three viewing ports, offering forward and partial peripheral views so passengers can see the ship up close.
As the descent begins, the temperature inside the room changes dramatically, going from rather warm and human to cool and moist. As a result, participants are asked to wear layers of comfortable, loose clothing that can easily be removed to adjust as the temperature changes. The company suggests people bring the following item:
- Two pairs of warm socks
- Water-resistant slippers or booties
- Thermal underwear
- Warm fleece or sweat pants
- A warm sweater or fleece jacket
- A wool cap
- A camera or video camera
- Notebook, pen and small tape record (to record the experience)
- Seasickness tablets or patches (which some passengers will need as the submersible is lowered into the ocean until it begins to descend more smoothly)
For safety’s sake, everyone on the submersible is also given a special pair of fire-resistant overalls they must wear. In addition, there are also some things that are NOT allowed in the vessel. This includes lipsticks, lip balm, Vaseline and anything else that is made of petroleum. In addition, there must be no matches or lighters or anything else combustible.
On the day of the submersible dive, each participant who will be going is given a light lunch and drink to take with them. But the company cautions that no formal bathroom facilities exist on the submersible, so people are asked to limit their food and drink consumption on the dive and also for up to about 12 to 18 hours before they leave.
What It Costs
The price to take this unusual journey to view the Titanic’s resting site is $40,000 per person.
This includes your accommodations and meals on the Akademik Keldysh, one night in St. John’s and all of your orientations and program activities, such as lectures and slide shows. In addition, each person gets a video of their dive to take home, which includes some pre-shot footage of the wreckage along with some new video of your personal journey down.
Other costs that are not included in this price include your transportation to St. John’s, as well as your airport fees and taxes, transportation and personal expenses, including laundry, bar bill, phone calls and gratuities.
If you would like to bring another person with you to share your cabin on the ship but who will not participate in the dive itself, this is an additional $5,000.
If money is no object and you decide you want to experience the romance and tragedy of the Titanic first-hand, keep in mind that you need to plan ahead quite a bit. Tours to the Titanic are planned infrequently. In addition, since weather conditions are unpredictable, there is no knowing exactly how long the expedition will last. Therefore, you will need to keep your scheduled return home flexible.
A Final Note
If journeying to the wreckage site is out just too costly and too time intensive for you, remember that for a much smaller investment, you can always rent the IMAX movie of the Titanic, watch the many documentaries that have been filmed about it or read one of the numerous books on its ill-fated history from the comfort of your own home.