An American businessman plans to take a select group of people 2.4 miles under the Atlantic Ocean on submarine expeditions to the site of the Titanic next year.
Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, hopes to launch weekly expeditions to the wreckage site between May and September on an annual basis.
Rush wants to take people down to the site on his privately owned five-person sub and said that three dozen people have already booked in for expeditions between May and July, with some spaces still available in that period.
The businessman doesn't want to turn the wreckage site into a tourist attraction, but he still stands to turn a profit from the venture by charging guests a staggering $125,000 to join him on the expeditions, which begin with an eight-day sail from Newfoundland.
The underwater expedition will then last between six and eight hours, including the dive, the exploration of the site, and the return to the surface.
Rush says that his guests would be among the first people in 15 years to visit the famous wreck and said that they would be regarded as "citizen scientists" who would be expected to assist in the technical surveys of the 25-mile wreckage site.
The businessman told Bloomberg that he had to charge his guests at least $100,000 if he wanted to make money from the venture.
"If this was just another money-losing wealthy person’s activity, I don’t see how it scales. We don’t take passengers, we don’t do trips, we don’t do rides. We’re doing an expedition."
Rush has attempted two expeditions to the famous wreckage site in recent years, but both failed due to unforeseen problems. His 2018 expedition was scuttled when his submarine was badly damaged after it was struck by lightning, while his 2019 attempts were thwarted when he ran into last-minute problems with the vendors of the mother ship. He plans to use small research ships for the 2021 expedition.
His company has completed deepsea missions off the Bahamas and at the Hudson Canyon in the Atlantic Ocean off New York, but the Titanic is the coup de grace.
"There are better wrecks," Rush told Bloomberg, "maybe even more important wrecks, but people don’t know what they are, and it’s hard to sell something when somebody doesn’t know."
Rush worked with Boeing and NASA to create Titan - the submarine that will undertake the expeditions to the Titanic.
The submarine can reach depths of 2.5 miles and can dive at a speed of 55 meters per second. There is a small bathroom on board and Rush plans to play music during the 90-minute descent.
Each expedition will include one pilot, one scientific researcher, and three paying guests, who can enjoy the underwater views through the submarine's windows or through the vessel's cameras.
Guests will also be able to assist in sonar and laser scanner operations and can even take a turn piloting the submarine.
Rush told Bloomberg that gets are in for a simultaneously awe-inspiring and somber experience on the bed of the Atlantic Ocean.
"All the bones are gone. There are no bodies down there. There are boots and shoes and clothes that show where people were 100 years ago, and that is very somber," he said.
Anyone wishing to embark on the expedition will need to undergo an interview first, Rush said, to ensure that they will work well in a group dynamic.
Guests will join a crew of up to 60 people on the mother ship, including scientists, archaeologists, and Titanic experts, and Rush is keen that he has the right people on the expeditions.
"We don’t want someone who is used to being catered to—a prima donna. We don’t have chocolates on the pillow."
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* Originally published on Nov 2, 2020.