|Seeing this rust-draped bow requires taking one of the most exclusive journeys in the world, on board one of the most sophisticated vessels in existence, to a site that only a select number of people will ever visit. Since its infamous 1912 brush with an iceberg, the RMS Titanic has been buried by four kilometres of frigid ocean and only seen live by a few hundred people, most of them scientists or researchers – and of course film director James Cameron. With the 100th anniversary of one of the world’s deadliest peacetime maritime tragedies next year, there’s no better time to brave the icy Atlantic’s murky depths and see the storied ship’s eternal grave first-hand.Though not the only agency offering deep sea dives to the Titanic wreckage, we recommend Bluefish for their specialisation in catering to a discerning clientele. Through Bluefish, you can book a two-week voyage aboard the Russian Akedemik Keldysh, reportedly the best vessel for supporting deep sea diving expeditions. Upon embarking from St. John’s, Newfoundland, passengers are provided with first-class meals and modest yet spacious lodging, plus recreational and informative programs, like lectures, briefings and films. A library stocked with deep sea exploration literature and a number of laboratories can further satiate a thirsty mind as you make your way to the site of the sinking.The dives begin at about day four, each dive lasting about 11 to 12 hours. Once on board the MIR I or II – two of the only five submersibles on earth that can reach the depths of the Titanic‘s resting place – a maximum of one pilot and two passengers will be lowered to the ocean floor at a speed of 31 metres per minute, for a total descent time of two hours. Eight minutes into the dive you’ll have already passed the depth that sunlight no longer reaches, immersing you in total darkness, and for the sake for saving energy the craft descends without external lights. Though every now and then the pilot will switch them on for a glimpse of marine life, for the most part bioluminescent sea creatures will be the only scenery – better hope your sub-mates are entertaining! It’s also advisable to dress warmly, because cabin temperatures drop as outside water pressure rises massively.It might sound like a gruelling descent, but the sight that awaits patient divers is more than rewarding. You’ll come within arm’s length of the propellers, the bridge, the capstans and the giant anchors larger than your submersible. You’ll see the monstrous boilers, the ship’s telemotor and the Marconi Room where the famous SOS was dispatched. Even the legendary grand staircase is on the tour. Attentive divers may even catch a haunting sight of shoes or bags that once belonged to ill-fated passengers.
Informative briefings, precautionary measures and the nickel steel bodies of the MIR submersibles remove many safety risks, but the dive to Titanic is not totally without its dangers. Keeping your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times has never been more expedient, for example, as the human body was not made to handle the 2.7 tons of water pressure per square inch crushing against your submersible. Moreover, due to the duration of the dive and limited access to first aid during it, individuals with certain medical or psychiatric conditions such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, anxiety disorders and severe asthma should not attempt it. It’s a good idea to talk to a doctor and the tour operator before making reservations.
The tour through Bluefish takes a respectful approach, disturbing as little as possible and taking nothing from the site, but other visitors have not been so gentle. Because of careless human activity and rampant iron-eating microbes slowly devouring Titanic’s centenarian frame, the wreckage has deteriorated rapidly since its 1986 discovery: the forward mast has fallen, the crow’s nest is gone and the poop deck has buckled in on itself. According to experts, Titanic might very well collapse onto the ocean floor within the next 50 years, and if they’re right, we may be among the last generations with the chance to fully experience her tragic, ghostly splendour.