The centenary of the sinking of the world’s most famous ship, the Titanic, occurs this coming April, and tours to the site of the sinking have taken a boost. Rob McCallum of the deep-sea exploration tour group, Deep Ocean Explorations, shares his account of his visit to the site with the Daily Mail.
More than two miles below the surface of the sea off the coast of Newfoundland, McCallum notes that there is nothing “macabre or ghoulish” about the ship’s wreckage, rather that he only comes to experience awe from the sheer size of the remains of the Belfast-built Titanic. He is “bewitched” by the remains of the grand staircase and promenade deck, which were given proper time in James Cameron’s hugely grossing 1997 film ‘Titanic.’
As McCallum explores the remains, he tells of the sort of juxtaposition between the viable remainders of that fateful April 12, 1912 evening - such as shoes left out for shining and Captain Smith’s porcelain tub - alongside the notable absence of the remains of passengers, which McCallum explains would have scattered and decayed a long time ago.
“But even in her broken, decaying state, this ghostly relic exudes an epic sense of majesty. For what was so striking about the wreckage is its colossal size,” says McCallum of the ship’s remains.
McCallum takes close note of one of the ship’s bronze propellers that are remarkably preserved, and notes how it is nearly twice the weight of the submersible he is venturing in beneath the sea, which he describes as a “hostile environment,” one that is so deep it is devoid of light.
McCallum is granted this unparalleled access to the famed wreckage as part of the Isle-of-Man based Deep Ocean Expeditions group . The expedition group works in conjunction with the PP Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, which is part of the Russian Academy of Science and owners of the submersible which visitors can travel downward in.
“By working together, we are able to assist the Institute’s science work, as well as making a contribution to the Mirs’ operating costs,” says McCallum of Deep Ocean Expedition’s partnership.
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Deep Ocean Expeditions also provides trips to view the wreckage of the Bismark, which was struck down by the Royal Navy in 1941 off the coast of Ireland. Both the Bismark and the Titanic wreckages were discovered by oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard in the 80s.
Nearly 150 passengers have been able to visit the Titanic’s remains over the past ten years over 200 separate dives. But the experience comes, not surprisingly, with a hefty price tag of $59,000.
For the tours, passengers take a ship out of Newfoundland to the Titanic’s site. Once there, “the passengers are generally given a day to familiarise themselves with the craft and have a briefing about the forthcoming trip; they then attend lectures in Titanic history, oceanography and deep-sea operations,” says McCallum.
The next morning the dive begins, taking about two hours to reach the depth of the wreckage. Along with the sights of the Titanic, passengers will be exposed to a strange world in the darkness of the depths of the sea, coming in close contact with the oddities of sea-life below.
“Even so, nothing can beat the awesome image of the Titanic itself,” says McCallum.
Despite the staggering price tag for the up-close tours, 2012 is the most booked year for tours yet, says McCallum, which is due mainly to the upcoming centenary of the ship’s sinking.
2012, however, will also be the last year for tours to the Titanic.
“It has been a wonderful adventure,” said McCallum of the 13 years of Titanic tours. “But with the centenary approaching, now is the proper moment to draw these expeditions to a close and allow this tragic ship to rest in peace.”
“It will be an honour to see the Titanic, in all her ruined glory, one last time.”