It has been described as “a wonderful event in my life” and a “lifelong goal” realized by previous participants. No submersible at the location has ever gone lost before.
At the Titanic, contemporary on-site tourism is still in its infancy.
The underwater vehicle that vanished on Sunday near the Titanic ruins had only made three trips since OceanGate Expeditions started providing them in 2021.
On its website and in Facebook ads, OceanGate has been advertising the third dive for months, promising the chance to “follow in Jacques Cousteau’s footsteps and become an undersea explorer” for the sum of $250,000.
“Become one of the select few to witness the Titanic firsthand,” the travel operator wrote on its website. There is a title on the ticket: “mission specialist.”
According to the company’s Facebook post, participants have included a chef, an actress, a cameraman, and someone who worked in banking.
Last year, one of the clients posted on Instagram that the event had exceeded her expectations and was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I finally got to see the Titanic, my lifelong dream!” Chef Chelsea Kellogg wrote. “I’m still trying to make sense of it. I’m still in tears. Still feeling overpowered by all the feelings.
Despite being asked for an interview on Monday, Kellogg claimed to have seen the ship’s bow, crow’s nest, and grand staircase.
The fact that Ocean Gate appears to be the only business providing dive tours to the Titanic debris highlights the practical challenge of getting to the location where the ship crashed in the North Atlantic in 1912, which is 12,500 feet below the surface. Around 1,500 people passed away.
The Titanic’s final resting location remained a mystery for many years, eluding numerous teams of researchers in a race to discover it, until a team led by the researcher Robert Ballard found it in 1985. For twenty years, there were intermittent visits, some of them by people looking for artifacts.
The 1990s and the beginning of this century saw some tourism since there were relics to be discovered and Russian-made submersibles that could dive to the depth of the site at that time, according to historian Don Lynch of the Titanic Historical Society. An artist from Los Angeles visited in 2000 and used the experience to create watercolors.
Lynch, who perished in 2001, claimed that when Russian-built submersibles were withdrawn and fewer treasures remained, the trips finally tapered off.
Prior to that, there was a lot of salvage taking place, and at some point, according to him, they stopped bringing up topics that might boost museum attendance.
There was a 14-year period without any human visitors starting in 2005.
Then, in 2019, another team went to the wreckage site and saw how quickly it was deteriorating. Since then, the number of visits has increased.
In an effort to exploit photographs and its own tourism ventures to earn money for salvage efforts, RMS Titanic Inc., the organization that owns the ship’s salvage rights, initially tried to ban tourist visits. However, in 1999, a federal appeals court decided that visitors could come, according to The Washington Post.
According to Lynch, all artifacts at the site should have been carefully documented as an archaeological site. However, he stated that he had no issues with tourist trips, particularly if they support study.
“Stay down. Look at this. That’s fantastic. The ship is not harmed,” he claimed.
In a video OceanGate published on YouTube in October, former participants give the experience high marks. Their names are not mentioned in the video.
One participant in the video exclaims, “This is an amazing moment in my life.”
One more responds, “Not many people have done it, and that’s part of the appeal, too, right?”
Customers take a ship—this year, the research vessel Polar Prince—from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to the Titanic region.
According to OceanGate’s website, five people can fit in the Titan submarine during diving days, and the descent takes a few hours.
You can watch a movie or have lunch, take notes for the science team regarding what you observe outside the viewport, help the pilot with communications and tracking, and more, it says.
The website says, “Titan’s front dome contains a small lavatory.” In addition to being the greatest seat in the house, it. We put a privacy curtain across the dome and the main compartment when the toilet is in use, and we crank the music high.
Before a two-hour ascent, “hours of exploring” are promised on the OceanGate website.
Everyone on the research vessel is expected to complete safety training, according to the website. In addition, training is based on the level of client participation, such as helping with navigation.
The founder of OceanGate, Stockton Rush, revealed to the travel website Frommer’s in 2020 that around half of his clientele were Titanic aficionados, while the other half were high-spending tourists drawn by space tourism and other extravagant endeavors.
“You couldn’t write a better story,” Rush said to the outlet. “There are both affluent and poor people. You are luxurious. You are arrogant. There is tragedy. Death is a reality.
According to Frommer’s, the company had initially intended to organize six excursions in 2021, but only ran one that year and one the year before.
Before that, seeing the Titanic’s debris up close required visiting one of the many museums that house items, such as the one at the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas, or possibly one of the replicas in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, or Branson, Missouri.
A minimum age of 18 was listed on the OceanGate website along with other information regarding this year’s voyage. Training, equipment, and meals on board were included in the fee, but not air travel.