You Can Still Visit The Titanic (For Now), But It's Absolutely Terrifying To Get There
Movie lovers know what became of Jack and Rose, but what happened after the Titanic sank in real life? For decades, the tragic ship took on a whole new life at the bottom of the ocean. Curious people can catch a glimpse of the ship's remains via photos and videos, but thanks to technological advancements, people can now see it in person... if they can afford it.
Most people know basic Titanic facts; the world's largest and allegedly unsinkable ocean liner hit an iceberg while crossing the Atlantic in 1912 and sank, taking about 1,500 lives in the process. The stories of Titanic survivors remain memorable and heartbreaking, especially since roughly 700 people survived.
More than a century later, the great ship continues to capture humanity's imagination. Several companies offer tours to the Titanic wreckage using advanced submersibles, but visiting the Titanic isn't cheap - scientists worry the ship's remains may only last another few years. Intrepid Titanic lovers may want to take the plunge to the Atlantic's ocean floor to see the existing historic ruins.
- Photo: Roderick Eime / Flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0
People Who Can Afford A $125,000 Ticket May Visit What's Left Of The Ship
Deep Ocean Expeditions sent their first deep-sea tour to the Titanic in 1998, and continued the expeditions until 2005; they even transported a couple down to get married near the ship's remains. The company made one last trip in 2012 for the disaster's 100th anniversary, charging ticket prices of $59,000.
Titanic lovers had little hope of visiting it until a pair of companies announced new expeditions. Bluefish, a provider of "VIP access to a more attractive lifestyle," plans to offer an excursion in a small submersible, which can carry two passengers plus the pilot. For $59,680 per ticket, passengers will descend at 100 feet per minute through darkness and freezing waters, viewing several sections of the Titanic on a 12-hour round trip.
OceanGate Expeditions also intends to operate tours, with the additional goals of inspecting the damage and creating 3D images of the site. On a six-day trip, researchers and "citizen scientists" able to afford the $1250,000 ticket will act as "mission specialists," helping to fund the researchers while participating in "communications, navigation, sonar operation, photography, and dive planning." In November 2020, Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate, told Bloomberg that some spaces were still open for the first expeditions, set to take place in 2021 from May through September. Mission specialists - three on each dive - will sail for eight days, then go on a single dive of six to eight hours to explore the ship and its resting site.
- Photo: NOAA / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
A Trip To The Atlantic Seafloor Is Neither Quick Nor Danger-Free
It can take approximately two-and-a-half hours to reach the Titanic's resting place, which is about 12,600 feet below sea level. This is ironic, in that the ship sank to the seafloor within minutes. Since the pressure at this level is approximately 5,541.9 pounds per square inch, submersibles need extra security to keep passengers safe. Any puncture or hole in the hull could cause the craft to implode instantly.
Freezing waters lower the temperature in the cabin as the submersible descends, and maintaining stable pressure requires filtering out carbon dioxide. The types of submersible capable of this trip only hold about three people, so space can feel cramped. Since there aren't onboard restrooms, occupants have to use a special container to relieve themselves, which may take place without privacy. Weather conditions also play a critical role, as storms and high waves make expeditions more hazardous.
- Photo: Mark Jochim / Flickr / Public Domain
Experts Disagree Over Whether Or Not Human Remains Are Inside The Titanic Site
More than 1,500 people died when the Titanic sank. Officials only recovered 340 bodies from the tragedy. Recovery efforts found corpses as far as 50 miles away from the wreck site due to a storm passing through the area. Though one expedition allegedly found part of a finger, no one who's traveled to the Titanic has seen a full corpse. Explorers also saw the occasional shoe or article of clothing.
Since the seawater doesn't deteriorate leather rapidly, boots and shoes on the seafloor may mark where a body once rested. Sea life most likely devoured the corpses from the wreck, but some believe certain areas of the ship contain trapped bodies. Decomposition underwater requires oxygen supplied by currents, so explorers think areas inaccessible to water flow might have preserved remains.
- Photo: Lori Johnston, RMS Titanic Expedition 2003, NOAA-OE / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The Remains Of The Ship May Soon Be Gone Due To Hungry Bacteria
Thanks to the intense pressure and conditions surrounding the Titanic's final resting place, it has gradually deteriorated over the years. The lack of living creatures at this level helped save the wreck from severe corrosion. However, scientists noticed strange formations they named "rusticles" forming on pieces of the ship like icicles.
A team of Canadian researchers brought samples back to their lab, noting bacteria lived on the strange formations. One of those scientists, Henrietta Mann, dug further into the research and discovered a new species of bacteria (Halomonas titanicae); it can survive in deep-sea pressure and darkness. Unfortunately, the bacteria devours the ship's metal to survive. According to several researchers, the Titanic may only endure for about 11 more years.
- Photo: Courtesy of NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island (NOAA/IFE/URI) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Treasure Hunters Have Taken Thousands Of Artifacts From The Titanic Wreckage
Because international waters are home to the Titanic's remains, different countries fought over the rights to the ship for years. In 1985, explorer and former US Navy officer Robert Ballard appealed to Congress to protect the site, inspiring a protective law signed by Ronald Reagan. The RMS Titanic Maritime Memorial Act required people and companies to obtain a permit from the Secretary of Commerce before taking items from the wreckage.
Unfortunately, this law had little effect - treasure hunters and other explorers took many artifacts from the site, including more than 5,500 items recovered by a private company for commercial purposes. Many have also auctioned off artifacts, which further fuels debate about whether or not people should refrain from visiting the Titanic and respect it as a gravesite.
- Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Careless Visitors May Have Further Damaged The Wreckage
Robert Ballard, one of the explorers who discovered the Titanic's wreckage, alleges visitors to the site further damaged the wreckage. He claims to have photographic proof of the ship in worse condition now than when it sank, and not only because of its years underwater.
Ballard cites damage to the crow's nest, as well as litter scattered on the seafloor around the ship as evidence of visitors' carelessness. Submersibles often use weights to descend, dropping them to travel back to the surface and leaving their ballast strewn among the Titanic's debris. Ballard also reportedly found evidence of people aboard support boats on the surface throwing trash into the water, which eventually reached the Titanic site as well.