Descendants of Titanic victims have shared mixed opinions about wealthy tourists visiting the wreck of the famous ocean liner after news emerged that a five-person submersible went missing on a dive to the wreckage on Sunday, June 18.
Martin Blyth-Sweetingham of the British Titanic Society said some descendants of Titanic victims see the wreckage site as a "sacred gravesite."
"There is mixed opinion in relation to whether the site of RMS Titanic should be visited by tourists," Blyth-Sweetingham told British publication The i.
"It is considered by some as a sacred grave site and understandably some descendants of passengers may be upset by the visits to the wreckage."
Blyth-Sweetingham added that there are no human remains at the wreckage and that it is prohibited under international agreement to enter the wreckage or remove any artifacts.
"Most dives to the wreckage are science-based and lots has been/is being learned for the benefit of humankind," he told The i.
Nova Scotia resident Warren Ervine, whose uncle died on the Titanic, is one descendant who is opposed to visits to the wreckage sites.
In 2020, Ervine voiced his opposition to plans to remove a Marconi telegraph machine from the site, calling for people to "leave it alone."
"I don’t like people fooling around with a grave site," Ervine told the Telegraph in 2020.
British citizen Dr. John Martin, the great-nephew of Titanic assistant surgeon Dr. John Edward Simpson, voiced a similar opinion in 2020, adding that the recovery of the Marconi machine will not "advance scientific knowledge one iota."
"The profiteers will leave behind a scar and an invitation for further similar raiders who will exploit the precedent."
Philip Littlejohn, whose grandfather Alexander James Littlejohn helped fill Lifeboat 13 when the Titanic struck an iceberg, traveled to the wreckage site in 2001 and said visits to the site should be carefully managed.
"When I look at some of the pictures that I took, such as a single shoe lying on the seabed in the debris field, I feel we were intruding into a world of collective and personal grief which needs treating with the greatest respect," Littlejohn told the BBC.
Littlejohn's grandfather helped save two-month-old baby Millvina Dean, who died in 2009 at the age of 97 as the longest-surviving Titanic passenger.
Dean's mother and brother were also saved when the Titanic sank, but her father perished in the disaster and she consistently argued that no one should visit the wreckage site.
OceanGate, which operates the missing Titan submersible, offers trips to the Titanic wreckage site for $250,000 per person.
The company's five-person submersible began its descent to the wreck on Sunday, losing contact with its support ship roughly two hours after making the dive.
It was carrying British billionaire Hamish Harding, Pakistani tycoon Shahzada Dawood, and his son Suleman, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, and French submarine operator Paul-Henri Nargeolet.
Rescuers said the submersible had 96 hours of emergency air when it made the dive on Sunday and estimate that it may run out of oxygen on Thursday, June 22.