To Titanic and Beyond

17 April 2019 By Lauren Beck

The story of the RMS Titanic has been told many times since the iconic vessel sank on April 14, 1912, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. The wreck was finally located in 12,500 feet of water in 1985 and has since been explored by ROV and manned submersible, perhaps most notably by James Cameron for the movie Titanic.

While these expeditions used the best tech available at the time, the last robotic Titanic excursion in 2010 did not have today’s 4K video or 3D technology. That’s about to change.

OceanGate Expeditions, which conducts expeditions to “explore and document iconic shipwrecks, hydrothermal vents, deep sea canyons, and rare biological events around the world,” is planning to conduct a series of manned submersible survey missions to the wreck, beginning in June 2019. OceanGate has designed and built the world’s only deep-sea diving, five-person submersible, and this will be the first manned submersible expedition to the Titanic in 14 years.

“With the annual Titanic Survey Expeditions, OceanGate will provide researchers, scientists, and citizen explorers with an opportunity to directly observe and document the current condition of the site,” says Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate. Plans include laser scanning the site and capturing 4K images and video. “Using the laser scan data and the high-resolution photography, [we] will create an immersive, virtual 3D model of the historic site, which can be used to assess the rate of decay over time, as well as preserve the historic site for future generations.”

The Titan submersible was designed to reach a depth of four thousand meters. “[The submersible] is significantly lighter in weight than any other deep diving submersible, making it more cost effective to operate and deploy, therefore making it more accessible to anyone interested in exploring the ocean’s depths,” says Rush. Participating in the upcoming expeditions are veteran Titanic diver, Rory Golden, who also took part in recovering the Apollo F-1 moon rocket engines; David Concannon, who has participated in three previous Titanic expeditions; and engineer Corey Jaskolski, who has pioneered advanced 3-D scanning technology. All are Titanic veterans.

While expeditions like these might be slightly out of reach for the average Joe, if you have the right credentials and can afford the eight-day mission, you might be in luck. “Citizen explorers are invited to join the expedition; they are guaranteed one dive to the historic site and the opportunity to play an active role on both the topside vessel and inside the submersible” says Rush. To become a Mission Specialist, you help underwrite the expedition — to a tune of $130,000 per person — and help the team aboard the submersible; in return, you can join the crew for a mission, make one submersible dive, and fulfill a support role aboard the surface vessel and aboard Titan during a dive.

This is not OceanGate’s first rodeo — they own three five-person subs that have been used to perform expeditions all over the world. They also plan to continue the Titanic Survey Expeditions into 2020 and beyond. “Titan will be used for annual expeditions to the Titanic. During the rest of the year it will be available for charter for a variety of projects,” Rush says. The OceanGate team has already began development of Cyclops 3 with a target depth of 6,000 meters.

“Perhaps most importantly, this expedition will mark the beginning of truly opening deep-sea exploration to more people and places than has ever been possible before,” Rush says. “This means manned deep-sea diving will continually become even more accessible and the wonders of the ocean made available to more people.”

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