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Logistics organized by local enthusiast; tours to include iceberg, Fogo Island excursions
For the first time since 2005, adventure tourists will have a chance to visit the site of the Titanic wreck this summer.
With a starting price of US$105,129 per person, it’s equivalent to the cost of first-class passage on the ill-fated ship’s inaugural sailing, after adjusting for inflation.
There’s already a waitlist for the 2019 weeklong series of tours which run from June through August and are fully booked. There are still remaining spots open for 2020.
St. John’s Titanic enthusiast Larry Daley is handling local logistics for the expedition, but U.S.-based company OceanGate Expeditions is leading the tours.
The five-person submersible “Titan” will take paying customers — or what OceanGate calls “mission specialists” — to a depth of 3,840 metres where they will assist in collecting data to help map the wreckage site. They will also assist in roles such as communications, navigation, sonar operation, photography, and dive planning.
The site is protected by a UNESCO convention, so Daley said the dives will take a “look but don’t touch” approach.
Daley will also be offering local excursions as add-ons for the mission specialists, such as iceberg expeditions and trips to Fogo Island.
Daley himself dove to the Titanic wreck site in 2003 in the Russian submersible Mir-1 — it was a gift from movie director James Cameron after Daley helped with logistics for Cameron’s documentary film “Ghosts of the Abyss.”
Daley said it was an awe-inspiring experience. He described seeing pilot whales at about 300 feet under the surface, and then at 4,000 feet a light show with bioluminescent plankton and anglerfish.
“When you get to the (Titanic) wheelhouse, that’s when you know you’re at a gravesite because you see there’s memorial plaques laid there from previous expeditions, a little vase with artificial roses in it. You pay your respects, and it’s emotional — you’re there at the site of a major loss of life and a disaster that definitely could have been avoided.”
Daley said he believes the OceanGate expeditions will be a long-term operation.
“They’re planning to come every year and base it out of St. John’s every year, so St. John’s — if everything goes smooth — we’re going to be the hub for seeing Titanic for years and years.”
He hopes it will bring tourism dollars to the province as the mission specialists will spend at least two nights in hotels in St. John’s.
“They’ll spend a lot of money in the city, and the attention we’re going to get internationally … I think we’ll get more people wanting to come here.”
The expedition was supposed to go ahead last year but the Titan was damaged during a series of lightning storms when it was undergoing final certification tests near the Bahamas. Daley said there wasn’t enough time left to complete repairs before the tours were set to begin, so it was delayed until this year.
The Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912 after striking an iceberg southeast of Newfoundland during its maiden voyage from Southhampton, England to New York.