A US travel company is set to offer $125,000 dive trips to the RMS Titanic for "citizen scientists".
As of May 2021, OceanGate Expeditions is organising six 10-day expeditions for teams of explorers, who will visit the wreck of the cruise ship, which now sits 3,800 metres below the surface.
The "unsinkable" RMS Titanic tragically sank on April 15, 1912, causing the loss of more than 1,500 lives. In the years since, only a few hundred scientists and researchers have visited the wreck.
"Beginning summer of 2021, a team of explorers will dive 3,800 metres below the surface of the North Atlantic to the wreck site of the RMS Titanic. This historic expedition will open the opportunity for citizen scientists to participate as active members of the team," the OceanGate Expeditions website reads. It is expected that the project will continue in the summer of 2022, with the aim of fully exploring the wreckage.
"Considered Mission Specialists, these individuals will help to achieve scientific goals and document the current condition of the historic wreck. Receiving hands-on training and continued instruction, this unique opportunity will connect explorers and amateur scientists to real scientific adventure."
However, there has been criticism of the plans to take groups of divers down to the resting place of more than 1,500 people.
“All the bones are gone. There are no bodies down there. There are boots and shoes and clothes that show where people were 100 years ago, and that is very somber,” Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions told Bloomberg.
The company aims to take divers "to depths far deeper than can be reached with scuba [diving]," but it will cost them. The 10-day expeditions are priced at $125,000.
A total of nine so-called "mission specialists" will be allowed on the each expedition, three per dive, who will each pay $125,000 for the 10-day sail from St John's, Newfoundland, Bloomberg reports. The dive will take six to eight hours to reach the Titanic site, explore, and return to the surface ship.
Explaining the fee, Rush said: "If this was just another money-losing wealthy person’s activity, I don’t see how it scales ... We don’t take passengers, we don’t do trips, we don’t do rides. We’re doing an expedition."
The dives will take place in the "most advanced deep-diving five-person submersibles on earth," which travel at speeds of three knots and ascend and descend at a rate of 50 metres per minute, with life support capabilities of up to 96 hours. The journey to the wreck from the surface will take 90 minutes.
The role of the citizen scientists will be to "help with navigation, maintenance, and cataloguing once-in-a-lifetime historical finds" when aboard the surface supply ship. The company says the submersible "will descend to the ocean floor and soar over the wreck, skimming the ship’s deck as cameras and lasers create a detailed 3D model."
"The Titanic's wreckage has never been fully explored," the company's statement reads. "Throughout the annual survey, dive teams will collect images, video, laser scans, and sonar data to provide an objective baseline of the current condition of the wreck. This baseline will be used to assess the rate of decay over time and help to document and preserve the historic maritime site."
This is just one of a number of ambitious expeditions the company has planned, including to the South Pacific's Coral Sea where unexplored Second World War aircraft and warships rest, as well as to Croatia's underwater museum and a Second World War submarine off the coast of New York.