New images of the wreckage of the Titanic released last week by a commercial exploration company show the doomed ship in vivid detail and highlight that the world for wealthy tourists extends not only into space, but also into the deep sea.
The minute-long clip was shared by OceanGate Expeditions, a company that takes paying tourists in submersibles to shipwrecks and underwater canyons. For the Titanic expedition this summer, guests paid $250,000 to take a submersible roughly 2.4 miles to where the wreckage rests on the sea floor.
Ever since the massive ship was found upright and split into two sections in 1985, less than 400 miles from Newfoundland, it has captivated historians, archaeologists and others. Stockton Rush, chairman of OceanGate, said private exploration was needed to continue fueling this fascination.
“No public entity is going to finance the return to the Titanic,” Rush said. “There are other sites that are newer and probably of greater scientific value.”
OceanGate has now led two expeditions to the site and has one planned for 2023. Dives last approximately eight hours, including the estimated 2.5 hours in each direction needed to descend and ascend.
Scientists and historians provide context for the journey and some conduct research on the site, which has become a reef that is home to many organisms. The team is also documenting the wreckage with high-definition cameras to monitor its deterioration and capture it in detail.
But high-quality images of the ship’s bow, anchor, and anchor chain don’t impress everyone.
Paul F. Johnston, curator of maritime history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, was unimpressed by the images, saying the OceanGate voyages were “people paying a lot to be ballast.”
“I’m not opposed to this kind of commercial exploitation because they don’t touch or damage the wreck,” Johnston said. “And it draws attention to the underwater world and shipwrecks in general, but in my opinion, there’s not much to learn from the Titanic that we don’t already know.”
There has been a debate for decades about who should visit the remains and why.
More than 1,500 of the Titanic’s passengers died, raising ethical questions about disturbing a site that may also double as a burial ground. About 700 people survived.
Many historians and scientists have also opposed efforts to remove artifacts from the site to earth. Mr. Johnston was one of several scientists who wrote to a court in support of the US government’s attempt to stop an underwater salvage company from attempting to recover a Marconi telegraph from the wreckage.
In May 2020, a federal judge granted approval to the RMS Titanic company, although its plans were delayed by the pandemic. RMS Titanic is now reviewing images from the wreck site to see if its original recovery plans will still work, company president Jessica Sanders said in an email.
Don Lynch, the official historian for the Titanic Historical Society, said he didn’t like the mention of Titanic artifacts, but was impressed with the quality of the new OceanGate images.
“The more they photograph, there will probably be things that we discover that we haven’t seen before or something like that,” he said. “But I can’t say that there is anything that has been a real discovery now. It’s amazing to see so clearly.”
Most people who watch the video on YouTube, which has garnered more than 1.7 million views, won’t be able to appreciate how detailed the footage is because it’s in 8K resolution, which is much higher than most people’s resolution. of televisions and computer screens.
But Mr Rush, chairman of OceanGate, said the high quality of the images allowed researchers to take an even closer look at the site without having to dive underwater. He said it could also be used to create an immersive experience with 30- to 40-foot screens, similar to Vincent van Gogh exhibits that project the artist’s work onto walls and floors.
Rush compared OceanGate voyages to space tourism, a growing industry best known for commercial space flights offered by three companies run by billionaires. He said that like the space industry, commercial travel was the first step in expanding the use of submersibles for industrial activities, such as inspection and maintenance of underwater oil platforms.
“For those who think it’s expensive, it’s a fraction of the cost of going into space and it’s very expensive for us to get these ships and go,” Rush said. “And people who don’t like anyone making money miss out on the fact that that’s the only way you get anything done in this world if there’s profit or military necessity.”