The underwater bacteria quickly devour the Titanic. He risks disappearing after 20 years. But you can buy a ticket for 100 thousand dollars and go on a trip to the seabed in order to see the famous steamer for the last time - and at the same time appreciate the full scale of what the ocean water did to it, writes BBC Russian Service.
Renate Rojas was five years old when her father first took her with him to swim underwater. They sailed in the clear waters near the shore of the Mexican Cozumel, and suddenly her father grabbed her hand and pointed down.
There, at the bottom, lit by the rays of the sun, lay a drowned plane, spreading its wings on the white sand. Excitement, Renata caught her breath, and she gasped intensely into the phone.
It was then that she woke up the love of the ocean.
“It's a whole space. It opens up in front of you, and you see how big, serene and peaceful it is, ”she recalls now - several decades after that moment from childhood.
With a wealth of scuba diving experience and money saved, Rojas is set to pursue his most cherished dream: to visit the Titanic in 2019.
Experts predict that Titanic has 20 years left to live. This means that enthusiasts who, like Rojas, paid for taking part in an underwater expedition, will not only be the first after 2005 of the year to see the famous ship, but also, judging by everything, will be the last.
Although the expedition is a commercial event, it also has a scientific element: its participants will use the most modern 3D modeling tools to analyze the state of the liner and preserve the memory of the Titanic for future generations.
A huge steamer collided with an 14 iceberg on April 1912, when it crossed the Atlantic on its way from Southampton to New York. From a blow, it split in two and sank at a depth of 3,8 km, 600 km from the shores of Canadian Newfoundland.
Then at least 1500 people died. Submerged in the dark abyss of the sea, the liner has since mercilessly eaten away by rust bacteria, gnawing bizarre holes in the hull and forming "rusty".
“There is more life on the Titanic now than when it floated on the ocean surface,” says Laurie Johnston, an ecologist who studies microorganisms. Laurie has already descended to the liner six times.
These "rustiness" (from the words "rust" and "stalactites") are the products of the vital activity of bacteria that oxidize the metal they eat. Gravity causes the acidic liquid to drain and form whole branches of rust.
“Rustites are unique because they are the dominant species down there,” says Johnston.
By the time researcher Robert Ballard and his team found an airliner on the ocean floor in 1985, rust-proofs reigned there.
On the day, they eat about 180 kg, and scientists warn: the ship does not have long to live.
So, the clock is already ticking, and the window of opportunity to see the famous liner - whether for scientific purposes or just as a keepsake - is narrowing every day.
One such opportunity is offered by OceanGate, a privately owned company that uses a small fleet of man-operated deep-sea vehicles to explore the oceans surrounding North America.
OceanGate has already launched 13 expeditions (since it was founded in 2009), including the study of other wrecks.
Never before, however, have they sold tickets for their vehicles to those without the knowledge and experience of ocean exploration. In 2019, for the descent to the Titanic, they want to do it.
Nine groups of such select “mission specialists,” as OceanGate calls them, embark on an 11-day journey to the bottom. The dives are planned from late June to mid-August 2019.
They will be transported by helicopter from St. John's, Newfoundland, to an escort vessel, which will serve as a base during the mission, from where they will sail to the ocean floor for their final rendezvous with the Titanic.
A ticket for such an 11-day excursion (and everything that it includes) costs $ 105 - the equivalent of the cost of a first-class ocean trip on the Titanic (adjusted for inflation).
At first, the idea of bringing nonprofessionals with you to the bottom of the ocean, where the temperature of the water is 1 degrees Celsius, and the pressure that can crush you like a tin cannon seemed dangerous.
But Joel Perry, president of OceanGate Expeditions and a diver with 30-year experience, doesn’t worry about security issues.
“Of course, this is not at all as dangerous as it might seem, we do not take anyone with us,” he says. "The selection process is pretty strict, and we will not hire a person until we are one hundred percent convinced that he is suitable."
According to Perry, everyone understands perfectly: candidates must be fit in both physical and psychological qualities in order to spend a week at sea.
On top of that, all members of the mission will have to complete a four-hour course on how to behave in the event of a helicopter crash. They will be trained in a large pool, placed inside the helicopter cabin.
Bans and how to get around them
The idea of visiting what remained of the once proud liner itself, from the day it was discovered, seemed doubtful to many.
According to David Concannon, expedition leader and lawyer who represented OceanGate in the past, American Ballard and his French team began discussing jurisdiction and access rights for the wreck less than 1985 hours after their descent to the Titanic in XNUMX.
Ballard’s intensive efforts led to the creation of an international agreement: to leave the wreckage alone. What the French then completely ignored.
Since then, the governments of Britain, France, Canada and the United States have fought a never-ending war with individuals and companies like OceanGate wishing to visit the Titanic.
“It has always been about control,” emphasizes Concannon, who currently advises OceanGate.
“Who will have control over the place where the Titanic rests? Over all the material filmed there? Over the discovered artifacts? Fights for control have been going on for the past 30 years, if not longer. And if you look at the situation from this point of view, the smoke began to dissipate. "
Today Concannon calls draconian rules and bans set by NOAA (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and other agencies.
NOAA, for its part, believes that any descent to the Titanic, even one during which no one tries to find something to remember, is a violation of its architectural integrity and its status as an underwater attraction of great cultural significance and heritage. as a memorial.
Fortunately for OceanGate, however, NOAA is unlikely to seriously interfere with the expedition. Threats have been voiced before, but it never came to something serious - say, a lawsuit.
“If they want to introduce bans, no one will just listen to them,” says Concannon. “So the members of the expedition will simply fly to the crash site, go down to the bottom, do what they see fit, and leave the Titanic.
This freedom of oceanic morals is also due to the fact that the wreckage of the "Titanic" is very far from the Canadian coast.
The territorial sea border ends 19 km away, and the economic border ends 160 km from the coast, Concannon explains.
"Titanic" - 600 km from Newfoundland. In other words, on the high seas.
Although he doesn't like the rules of NOAA, Perry says that OceanGate will follow them.
After all, the mission of 2019 is not only for Titanic fans to see the object of their passion. The members of the expedition use modern technologies to obtain a full 10D model of the liner - for the first time in the last XNUMX years.
The Titan bathyscaphe will be equipped with sonars and laser scanners, thanks to the participation of the media company Virtual Wonders, to capture the billions of spatial points of the vessel lying on the bottom.
The result (with the help of a supercomputer) will be an ultra-high resolution 3D image - nothing like this has been done before.
“The bow of the liner will open before us in great detail, and the stern will also be clearly visible,” says CEO Mark Bauman. “It will take years to map the interior of the ship. But every year we will be closer to the goal. ”
According to Bauman, having repeatedly scanned the ship during the OceanGate six-week expedition, it will even be possible to see the changes in rust-conditioners that occurred during that time.
“This will help us compare our readings with previous measurements taken from the Titanic. Which, in turn, will help calculate exactly when the "Titanic" will turn into just a rusty trace on the ocean floor. "
Perry says the 3D models and all the data will be available free of charge to all scientists and researchers who want to use them in their work - this approach is in line with how NOAA manages its visual content on Titanic.
Part of the material will be provided to educational institutions and used for educational purposes by the non-profit organization OceanGate Foundation.
Well, for everyone else, Bauman hopes to create something that makes you breathtaking.
“We are planning to release applications of augmented reality, virtual reality, we plan to sell our models to video game developers, and people will be able to dive on a submarine to the Titanic,” he says. "And it will look smarter than 3D Imax."
Unlike all previous expeditions, all voluntary participants of the OceanGate mission will help scientists to collect data, which from the very beginning seemed to Renate Rojas particularly attractive.
For the past five years, she has been following with hope the progress in the preparation of the mission.
“We're not tourists,” she says. “We are a real part of the team.”
With any luck, Rojas will even be trusted to pilot the bathyscaphe using his unique helm - the PlayStation wireless joystick.
“I bet on OceanGate. I believe we will succeed. ”
So Rojas believes that participation in the expedition fully justifies its high price.
She will not only see the place that was opened to just a handful of people on our planet, she will be directly involved in all the details of an exciting journey to the bottom.
In addition, she stresses, a flight into space costs $ 250, climbing Everest - 000. The amount that is asked to pay here is very realistic in this market.
Down to the bottom
If everything goes according to plan, then in June 2019, Roxas will be delivered from the support vessel to the Titan's cockpit, and she will descend into the bathyscaphe through an open hatch.
After it takes its place next to other specialists, the hatch will close and the device will begin to dive into the dark depths.
She will hear clicks and buzzing from the inside, and condensate will appear on the walls of the bathyscaph.
When the device touches the bottom, the lights will flare up, and she will be face to face with the dream of her whole life - the Titanic in all its dying glory.
“I can imagine what feelings will take over me there. I've been looking forward to this for so long, ”she says. - I think it will also be a very sad moment. That tragedy is a very sad event in itself. So for me this meeting will be very emotional from any point of view. ”
“It's basically a grave,” says Johnston. - There is no getting away from this, no matter how you look at it. And we treat this with deep respect. ”
Some, including descendants of survivors of the tragedy, argue that organizing excursions to the shipwreck is a sign of disrespect for the hundreds of those killed in 1912.
But, according to Johnston, the work of the researchers provides a unique opportunity for future generations to learn about the Titanic, especially given the fact that very soon it will simply disappear.
“This is part of human history,” she says, “so I want to introduce it to all people.”
Renata Rojas hopes to be able to share her impressions and memories of the expedition with her children.
She would like them to know: the dream of a lifetime, even such as hers, can eventually come true.
“Once I was just a child who had a dream. When you have a dream, even if it seems impossible, you can make it come true, says Rojas. "I'm ready for this."