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 sonar model of the shipwreck and portions of the debris field
- 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
- Explore the interior of the wreck using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) piloted from on board the submersible
- Capture 3-D sonar images from the interior of the wreck
A Rare View of the World’s Most Famous Shipwreck
Missions Specialists join the expedition in teams of up to 9 for 7-day missions during the expedition. These teams will embark from St. John’s, Newfoundland aboard an expedition support yacht that provides accommodations for the transit to and from the dive site. Once at the dive site, Mission Specialists transfer to the operations support vessel for accommodations during the mission and return to shore aboard the support yacht at the end of the mission.
During each 7-day mission, three submersible dives are planned. Mission Specialists join one submersible dive to the Titanic and have the opportunity to support or observe surface operations during the other dives as desired. Mission Specialists may also opt to assist the dive team with pre- and post-dive servicing of the submersible or perform other Mission Specialist support roles.
After a pre-dive brief and life-support systems check, the dive team of up to four crew and the pilot will board the submersible. The 90-minute descent will be dark as the sun’s rays only penetrate a short distance into the ocean. Bioluminescent creatures are often viewed during the descent.
The dive team will spend between three and four hours exploring the wreck, focusing mostly on the bow section, the largest and most impressive part of the wreck.
Gliding over the ship’s deck the sub’s powerful exterior lights will illuminate the cavern where Titanic’s famous grand staircase was once located. The dive may also explore the remains of the iconic bridge where the famous order “Hard a’ starboard and full speed astern” was uttered.
When transiting between the bow to stern sections, the sub will cross Titanic’s massive debris field, home to numerous artifacts strewn across the ocean floor, undisturbed for a century.
During the dive, your pilot and Mission Specialists may conduct 3-D scans or search for one of the ship’s giant boilers, enormous propellers or other landmarks of this famous vessel.
Though the focus of the dive is naturally on Titanic, there will also be viewing of deep-sea life such as rat tail fishes, anemones, grenadier fish and squat lobsters.
Ample time will be given for photography and quiet observation and reflection.
(Note: views of specific vessel features depends on local conditions at the wreck)
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. The submersible will also have the largest viewport (53 cm / 21 in. diameter) of any deep-diving submersible.
Constructed of titanium and filament wound carbon fiber, she is designed to withstand the enormous pressures that are found at the very depths of the oceans. This is a research vessel used to conduct undersea missions such as site inspections, environmental assessments, equipment testing, sonar mapping and data collection.
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: 3 knots
Life Support: Standard, 8 hrs (for 5 crew), Emergency, 96 hrs (for 5 crew)
Design Specifications: Carbon fiber hull: 12.7 cm (5 in.) 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
The primary operations, scientific and film crew will depart from St. Johns, Newfoundland aboard an Operations Support Ship and remain at the dive site for the duration of the expedition.
Expedition Support Yacht
Mission Specialists will transit between St. John’s and the dive site aboard an expedition support yacht and then transfer to the operations support vessel for accommodations and participation during submersible operations.
The expedition support yacht will have:
- Capacity to transport mission specialists, content experts and crew to the Titanic wreck site approximately 380 miles from St. John’s, Newfoundland
- Accommodations for up to 9 mission specialists in double occupancy staterooms
- Ability to transport supplies to replenish the OSV during extended expeditions
- Suitable space for Mission Specialist orientation sessions and mission briefs
Operations Support Vessel
The primary expedition vessel will be a research class operations support vessel with sufficient size, equipment, and facilities to:
- Transport submersible and Mobile Subsea Launch and Recovery System (Ms.Lars) that is used for launching and recovering the submersible
- Provide living accommodations for up to 20 expedition crew, mission specialists, and content experts
- House the equipment and materials needed to service and maintain the submersible and related equipment
- Provide suitable work space to perform mission-critical tasks including submersible launch and recovery operations, media production and sonar data and image management
Please note that research class OSVs:
- Are clean and comfortable, but are not considered to be luxurious
- Typically have bunk-style berths in staterooms shared by 2 to 4 people
- Do not allow or provide alcohol on board
Note: the vessels illustrated here represent the type and capabilities of the vessels that will be selected to conduct the expedition. Specific vessel information and amenities will be made available to all Mission Specialists who are selected to participate in the expedition.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Join fellow explorers aboard our expedition support yacht.
Participate in vessel orientation and safety drills including donning a survival suit and learning emergency procedures.
Depart the port of St. John’s.
At Sea, Transit to Titanic Site
While at sea, you will have time to 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 this day at sea, you may choose to take part in Mission Specialist orientation sessions and learn how to assist the crew planning a dive, operating the sonar, using the undersea navigation system, preparing the submersible for diving or performing the myriad tasks needed to conduct a successful mission. Participation in these sessions may qualify you to conduct these activities as a mission specialist on board the submersible or during surface operations.
Days 3 – 6:
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 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 sub 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, transfer to the expedition support yacht and depart the wreck site for the return transit to St. John’s.
Transit to St. John’s
On the return sailing, join the post-mission briefing with the expedition crew, enjoy informal discussions, review collected images, video and sonar data.
Arrival in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Disembark in St. John’s for independent 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?