This isn’t the first time that Titan heads out on record-breaking missions, and neither is it the first expedition of the kind planned for the Titanic wreck by the company. In fact, this expedition should have been carried out last year but had to be aborted due to misunderstandings with the provider of the mother ship. As such, it’s been scheduled for 2021 and will be carried out during the May-September timeframe off the coast of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
strictly for pleasure: Titan will carry three paying customers, one researcher, and one pilot, and even the tourists will serve double duty as crew members. The ultimate goal of the mission, which will include several dives, each six to eight hours long, is to create a 3D map of the wreck and the surrounding site and study the way in which the wreck has changed in recent years.
Titan is, as of the moment of writing, the only 5-person submersible in the world able to go to depths of 2.5 miles (4,000 meters or 13,100 feet). It’s a 2018 Cyclops-class, manned, carbon fiber submarine, named like this because of a single viewport that allows two people sitting close to each other to look outside. It is the largest on any deep-dive submarine.
With an integrated launch and recovery platform, Titan is considerably lighter in weight than similar deep-diving submersibles as well as safer due to a patented real-time hull health monitoring (RTM) system. It can travel at speeds of three knots and descends at 55 meters (180.5 feet) a minute, thanks to four electric thrusters. Inside, it’s cramped but spacious enough to include a small bathroom and room to stretch one’s legs every once in a while – as long as only one person does it at the time.
Descending to the Titanic wreck takes 90 minutes, with the rest of the dive time spent exploring. During the descent, occupants of the Titan will get to chill to music chosen by OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush himself. Snacks and water will be allowed.
Once Titan reaches the site, everyone will chip in on research duties, including laser scanning and monitoring of the cameras. They will also be allowed to operate the submarine when it’s deemed safe. For the record, in a recent interview with Bloomberg, Rush insists that, despite the fact that these “mission specialists” have no training in the field, they’re far from regular tourists. They are part of a much bigger thing: “We don’t take passengers, we don’t do trips, we don’t do rides. We’re doing an expedition.”
There will be 18 dives in total, and Rush himself will pilot each dive in three. Every paying customer will be interviewed and submitted to rigorous screening because the CEO says they don’t want prima donnas on board the mother ship, where they will have to share a bathroom and other such things we regular folk are accustomed to.
Availability is also a deciding factor since the schedule is fluid and dependant on weather and other considerations. In addition to making a profit, OceanGate is determined to carry out a research expedition, so building a team is of paramount importance: all the paying tourists will have to gel one with the other, and with the researcher and pilot that will accompany them deep down.
Speaking of paying, one such dive costs $125,000 a pop, which is definitely not cheap but still less than what you would pay to, say, fly to space with Virgin Galactic (that’s $250,000 a ticket, for clarity). The money includes the eight-day sail and stay on board the mother ship and the actual dive.