A century has sailed by since the luxury steamship RMS Titanic met its end in the North Atlantic, plunging two miles to the ocean floor after sideswiping an iceberg during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
A legend even before she sailed, her passengers were a mixture of the wealthiest, basking in the elegance of first class accommodations, and immigrants packed into steerage.
The Titanic is considered the world’s best-known shipwreck. Today, more than 100 years after the sinking, the Titanic continues to have a large following. The story of the sinking has been the subject of numerous documentary films, several feature films, and countless articles.
Our Titanic Survey Expedition will allow a select number of individuals to explore the vessel that was once the height of opulence, but whose journey would end tragically with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.
Diving into History to the Legendary “Unsinkable” Titanic
It took a year to design and another ten months to complete construction of the ship, including the fitting out of the interior and the installation of the massive state-of-the-art engines, boilers, and mechanical equipment. Upon completion, Titanic and her great sister ships Olympic and Britannic weighed 46,000 tons and measured 882 feet (268 meters) in length.
On April 10, 1912, passengers arrived at the White Star docks in Southampton, England to board the grand liner before the crew cast off her lines and Titanic departed with suitable fanfare. She made two port calls, in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland before departing for New York.
It was at the second port of call in Queenstown that Titanic’s chief officer, Henry Wilde sent a letter to his sister expressing his misgivings and saying, “I still don’t like this ship, I have a queer feeling about it”. Henry Wilde died three days later.
In 1912, ship-to-shore wireless was in its infancy and although used by many ships it was still considered a convenience rather than a necessity. On the second day of the voyage, Titanic’s wireless operators began to receive iceberg warnings from other ships in the North Atlantic shipping lanes. Tragically not all the ice warnings reached the bridge and many that were received were ignored by the busy radio operators. Meanwhile, Titanic’s Captain Smith steamed ahead using the full strength of Titanic’s mighty 30,000 horsepower engines.
To spot icebergs at night, lookouts often relied on moonlight to illuminate the white foam of waves breaking against the bergs. Unluckily, April 14th was a beautiful, clear night with a moonless sky. The unusually calm seas meant there were no waves to spot at the base of the icebergs. To make matters more difficult, the binoculars in the crow’s nest were missing.
Lookout Frederick Fleet first saw that fatal iceberg as a small mass in the distance. He immediately rang the three-bell alarm and telephoned the bridge. First Officer Murdoch ordered, “Hard a’ starboard and full speed astern.”
At 11:40 p.m. ship’s time on April 14, 1912, four days into the crossing, Titanic hit an iceberg. The collision caused the ship’s hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea, filling the ship with water. Over the next two hours and forty minutes, Titanic would break apart and sink beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean – eventually coming to rest on the seabed at a depth of 3,800 meters (12,500 feet).
The next morning, the liner Carpathia rescued 705 survivors. More than 1,500 passengers and crew were lost. Subsequent inquiries attributed the high loss of life to the insufficient number of lifeboats and inadequate training in their use. For many, the tragic fate that befell Titanic would come to mark the passing of the opulence and hubris of the Edwardian era.
Discovery and Exploration of the World’s Most Famous Shipwreck
After years of fruitless searching by many organizations, the wreck of the RMS Titanic was found by Dr. Robert Ballard in 1985.
Since then, several expeditions have been launched to explore the wreck – most using remotely operated or autonomous vehicles, with relatively few expeditions utilizing manned submersibles. Most notable of these manned submersible expeditions was led by James Cameron for the production of the film “Titanic” that was released in 1997.
Over the last 30 years, Titanic dive expeditions have been conducted by some of the world’s few deep diving submersibles: Nautile (France), Alvin (USA), and the two Mir subs (Russia). These expeditions used the best technology available at the time but were unable to capture high-definition video and 3-D scans of the wreck using the advanced technology available to explorers today.
In 2010, scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) conducted a wide area survey of the debris field and a 2D photo mosaic of the wreck.
During these expeditions, only a few hundred people have visited Titanic in a manned submersible – far fewer than have been to space or summited Mt. Everest.
About the Wreck
The wreck lies at a depth of 12,500 feet (3,800 meters) approximately 380 miles (595 kilometers) from the coast of Newfoundland.
The famous ship is deteriorating, overwhelmed by the relentless spread of rusticles (named on account of their icicle-like shape) which are eating the manganese, iron, and sulfur out of the steel and weakening the wreck
During the sinking, the ship broke into two main sections and many objects and pieces of the hull were scattered across the sea bed. Most of the debris is concentrated near the stern section and appears to consist of thousands of objects from the interior of the ship, ranging from tons of coal spilled from ruptured bunkers to suitcases, clothes, corked wine bottles (many still intact despite the pressure), bathtubs, windows, washbasins, jugs, bowls, hand mirrors and numerous other personal effects.
A Longitudinal Survey of the RMS Titanic
We will conduct a series of week-long manned submersible survey missions to the wreck of the RMS Titanic beginning in May 2018.
Given the massive scale of the wreck and the debris field, multiple missions performed over several years will be required to fully document and model the wreck. This longitudinal survey to collect images, video, and sonar data will provide an objective basis to assess the decay of the wreck over time and help preserve its submerged history.
Expeditions are to be conducted respectfully and in accordance with the NOAA Guidelines for Research, Exploration, and Salvage of RMS Titanic [Docket No. 000526158–1016–02]. Note: these guidelines comply with UNESCO guidelines for the preservation of underwater world heritage sites.
The Titanic Survey Expedition will conduct an annual scientific and technological survey of the wreck with a mission to:
- Create a detailed 3-D model of the shipwreck and portions of the debris field using the latest multi-beam sonar, laser scanning and photogrammetric technology.
- Supplement the work done by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to capture data and images that are missing from the scientific record.
- Document the condition of the wreck with high definition photographs and video.
- Document the flora and fauna inhabiting the wrecks site to compare against data collected on prior scientific expeditions to better assess changes in the habitat as the shipwreck decays.
A Rare View of the World’s Most Famous Shipwreck
Missions Specialists join the expedition in teams of up to 9 members for 8-day missions to explore the wreck. These rotating teams depart from St. John’s, Newfoundland and fly to and from the rendezvous point via helicopter, with a deck landing aboard the dive support ship. Mission Specialists live and work with the operations crew throughout the mission to conduct submersible dives to the legendary shipwreck.
During each 8-day mission, six submersible dives are planned. You will join at least one submersible dive to the Titanic and have the opportunity to train and support the submersible operations in roles such as sonar and tracking, communications, camera operations, and data logging.
During other mission dives you can choose to support or observe surface operations, or monitor dive operations and other expedition activities with closed-circuit video or audio feeds from the operations deck, navigation, and communications center from your private quarters or common areas.
Mission Specialists may also assist the dive team with pre- and post-dive servicing of the submersible, or perform other Mission Specialist support roles such as reviewing videos and photos of the wreck, analyzing sonar data, or helping with dive planning.
Throughout the mission, content experts on board the ship will share their knowledge of the shipwreck, the history of the ship and the story of her sinking, and the deep sea creatures inhabiting the wreck.
Following a pre-dive brief, your team of up to four crew and pilot will board Cyclops 2. After conducting a check of life-support, navigation, and communication systems, the dive begins.
During the 90-minute descent, look for bioluminescent creatures in the depths where sunlight cannot penetrate. Help the pilot monitor the inertial navigation system to vector Cyclops 2 toward the wreck, and then pick up
views of Titanic on sonar before maneuvering around the ship.
We will spend about three hours exploring the wreck, focusing mostly on the bow section, the most impressive part of the wreck. Gliding over the ship’s deck, our powerful exterior lights will illuminate the cavern where Titanic’s famous grand staircase was once located. Your dive may explore the remains of the iconic bridge where the famous order “Hard a’ starboard and full speed astern” was uttered, or explore Titanic’s massive debris field, home to numerous artifacts strewn across the ocean floor, nearly undisturbed for over a century.
Exterior cameras send multiple feeds to your individual tablet, providing a near 360-degree view around the sub. Use this interactive device to switch between cameras feeds, view live sonar images, or track the sub’s position.
During the dive, your crew may conduct 3-D and 2-D sonar scans or search for one of the ship’s giant boilers, enormous propellers, and other landmarks of this famous vessel while viewing deep sea creatures living amidst the wreckage.
(Note: views of specific vessel features depends on local conditions at the wreck)
Cyclops 2 Submersible
For the Titanic Survey Expedition we will be using the only submersible in the world capable of reaching depths of 4,000 meters that is not government owned. Cyclops 2 will also have the largest view port (53 cm / 21 in. diameter) of any deep diving submersible.
Constructed of titanium and lament wound carbon fiber, she is designed to withstand the enormous pressures that are found at the very depths of the oceans. Cyclops 2 is a research vessel used to conduct undersea missions such as site inspections, environmental assessments, equipment testing, sonar mapping and data collection.
Cyclops 2 will meet or exceed the strict submersible classification guidelines of Germanischer Lloyds including carrying four days of life support and multiple emergency recovery systems and backups. Manned submersibles are some of the safest vessels in the world. In the last 35 years there have been no deaths or serious injuries in a similarly classed manned submersible.
During each dive, the air pressure inside the submersible remains constant – and equal to the one atmosphere of pressure we experience at sea level – regardless of the dive depth. Throughout the dive, the breathable air on board is recycled in a manner similar to that used aboard spacecraft to maintain a safe, comfortable environment.
- Capacity: 5 persons (1 pilot + 4 crew)
- Depth: 4,000 meters (13,120 feet)
- Dimensions: 6.7 meters x 2.8 m x 2.5 m (22 feet x 9.2 ft x 8.3 ft high)
- Weight: 8,600 kg (19,000 lbs)
- Speed: 2 knots
- Life Support: Standard, 8 hrs (for 5 crew) Emergency, 96 hrs (for 5 crew)
- Carbon fiber hull: 12.7cm(5in.)thick
- Largest view port of any deep diving submersible: 53cm (21 in.) diameter
- Ascent/descent rate of 100 meters/ min. (330 feet/min.)
- Integrated launch/recovery system
- Comfortable dome entry/exit
Mission Specialists transit between St. John’s and the dive site aboard a high speed helicopter to rendezvous with the Dive Support Ship at sea.
Prior to the expedition, all crew members must participate in a one-day Helicopter Underwater Escape Training session. This session is similar to that used by military personnel and simulates an emergency landing at sea to prepare participants for an emergency exit of the aircraft and survival at sea.
Dive Support Ship
The primary operations crew will depart from St. Johns, Newfoundland aboard a Dive Support Ship with Cyclops 2 and Ms. Lars, OceanGate’s Mobile Subsea Launch and Recovery System, that is used for launching and recovering the submersible. The operations crew will transit to the dive site aboard this ship, and remain at sea for the duration of the expedition. Each Mission Specialist joins the expedition for a designated 8-day mission, transiting to the site aboard the helicopter.
This ship has accommodations for up to 20 operations crew, mission specialists and content experts. Mission Specialists enjoy private living quarters, and share the ship’s common areas with the entire expedition crew. The common areas include a ready room where mission briefs are conducted, a lounge for relaxing when off duty, a dining area for enjoying the first-class meals prepared by the chef, and a small theater for viewing recorded programs and images captured during the expedition.
The crew may install portable compartments on the aft deck to increase the number of private crew berths or to provide work space to house expedition facilities including a media production suite, communications center, and submersible maintenance workshop.
St. John’s, Newfoundland Helicopter Flight
At Sea, Transit to Titanic Site
Join fellow mission specialists for a helicopter flight to rendezvous with the dive support ship at sea. After a deck landing, participate in vessel orientation and safety drills including donning a survival suit and learning emergency procedures as the ship steams toward the dive site.
While at sea, explore the ship and spend time with the explorers, scientists, submersible pilots or expedition crew.
Receive a mission brief including presentations by content experts and/or fellow explorers.
On these days at sea, take part in Mission Specialist orientation sessions to learn how to assist the crew planning a dive, operate the sonar, use the undersea navigation system, prepare the submersible for diving, or help perform the myriad tasks needed to conduct a successful mission. Participation in these sessions may qualify you to perform these roles as a mission specialist on board the submersible or ship.
Dives to the RMS Titanic
On each of these dive days (subject to weather conditions), submersible dives are planned with time allotted for crew rest and equipment maintenance.
Note: dives may take place during the day or night depending on prevailing weather conditions.
Prior to your dive, you’ll have an orientation session with a pilot inside the submersible to become familiar with the systems, surroundings and procedures for safe transfer between vessels at sea.
Before each dive, a briefing is given by the submersible pilot or expedition leader that covers dive objectives, schedule, roles and other information to ensure a safe and productive dive.
Aboard ship, Mission Specialists may actively support the mission by performing such roles as assisting with submersible launch and recovery, subsea communications during the dives, submersible servicing and more.
Throughout the expedition the crew meets for mission updates, dive briefs and informal socializing. Enjoy lectures and discussions with deep ocean explorers and scientists.
Depart Titanic Site
After the conclusion of the last dive, the dive support ship will depart the wreck site and begin steaming toward the helicopter rendezvous location.
Join the post-mission briefing with the expedition crew, enjoy informal discussions with content experts, and review the images, video and sonar data collected during the mission.
Helicopter Flight Disembark
Arrive at the helicopter rendezvous location, and board the aircraft for the return flight to St. John’s to travel to your next adventure.
Note: Weather delays may extend your mission beyond the scheduled return date, therefore it is strongly suggested that you do not schedule any important appointments until two days after your scheduled return date.
Join the Expedition
A limited number of Mission Specialist positions are available on each mission. These crew members participate in a submersible dive and have the option to actively assist the expedition team in one or more support roles by assisting aboard the surface vessels and in the submersible.
Mission Specialist training and hands-on guidance from the crew are provided for all support roles including:
- Sonar Operator
Surface Support Roles
- Tender Operator
- Submersible Service Technician
- Video and Image Analyst
- Sonar Analyst
- Dive Planner
Qualified Mission Specialists are those who:
- Want to contribute to the success of the expedition by actively participating in ways that suit their experience and aptitude
- Are curious and have a passion for the ocean and for exploration
- Have previously been on expeditions or adventures of more than 3 days
- Able to live aboard an expedition support vessel at sea for up to one week
- Able to board small boats (Zodiacs) in rough seas
- Have a valid passport
- Be at least 18 years old when the mission begins
- Able to fit through 21” diameter hatch opening
- Are comfortable in dynamic environments where plans and timetables may change
- Can demonstrate basic balance and flexibility (i.e. climb a 6-foot step ladder, carry 20 lbs., etc.)
The price of this experience is equivalent to the cost of First Class passage ($4,350) on Titanic’s inaugural sailing after adjusting for inflation.
To Join a Mission
More people have been to the peak of Everest and into space combined than have been to the depths of the Titanic – will you be next?