Titan submersible: Why the demand for its ticket to visit Titanic wreckage?

The Titan submersible, operated by OceanGate Expeditions to explore the wreckage of the sunken Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland, dives in an undated photograph. Photo: OceanGate Expeditions/Handout via REUTERS

Where is Titan? Are the five tourists on the submersible, who were on the way to visit wrecked ship Titanic on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, safe? 

The world has been worryingly pondering over the question for the past few days as updates on various countries joining hand for their rescue mission, the level of oxygen left inside the vessel, the profile of the five people inside it and more are coming out. As per the latest news, a deep-sea diving robot has reached near Titanic for the search. Titan belongs to the US adventure travel firm OceanGate.

The risky tour for the rich
In fact, the discovery of the wreckage of the historic luxury liner Titanic – which sank in 1912 – on the ocean floor in 1985, opened a new possibility of adventure tourism. Those who are lured by this tour are extremely wealthy and also adventurous.

They are not thrilled by snow-clad mountains, deserts or beaches which entice ordinary tourists but seek much bigger challenges.

The risks involved in reaching the depth at which Titanic is located are immense. The journey to the spot, which is 3.8 km below the sea-level, takes two hours and the return journey also consumes an equal time. Several more hours are needed to observe the sunken ship.

During the trip, sunlight disappears completely at a depth of 1,000 m (3,280 feet). Moreover, at the depth where the wreck is located, the pressure would be 390 times that we normally experience on land.

However, such challenges are what make the journey interesting for some people!

No wonder, they are willing to pay the US Dollars (USD) 250,000 (around Rs two crore) which OceanGate charges for the Titanic trip. Incidentally, there is a long waiting list for the adventure.

Tickets sell like hot cakes
According to Philip Brown, founder of luxury tourism company Brown & Hudson, it is not at all difficult to sell tickets for journeys such as the Titanic trip.

Roman Chiporukha, co-founder of luxury travel firm Roman & Erica, supports this view. He says that ordinary experiences don’t satisfy these extraordinary travellers. In fact, the annual membership fee of his firm starts at USD 100,000 (Rs 81 lakh).

Atlantic's adverse weather conditions
Hamish Harding, the British billionaire who is a passenger on the Titan submersible now gone missing, has explained the unique features of the trip in an Instagram post. He says that the current weather in the Atlantic is the worst in four decades.

Another human mission to the Titanic is unlikely to take place this year, adds Harding, who is an ocean explorer, pilot and astronaut. He had earlier travelled to the South Pole and Mariana Trench. Harding was also a member of the fifth space mission of Blue Origin.

A depth of 12,500 feet
Ocean submersibles are normally utilized for explorations and scientific purposes. Humans do not travel in the submersibles during such missions. Submersibles are also used to locate submerged items and to carry out inspections of undersea cables.

Tours on submersibles with travellers started from the 1980s, but such expeditions are still rare. These trips are expensive too. For instance, the fare for a 10-day yacht trip by Kensington Tours is USD 7 lakh. The main attraction of this trip is travelling to a depth of 600 feet below the ocean surface at Bahamas in a submersible.

Most of such trips in submersibles take tourists to depths of only around 150 feet and last two to three hours. Passengers in the submersibles can observe undersea creatures and remains of aircraft and warships wrecked during World War II.

At the same, the Titan submersible currently in the news has taken the five adventurers to a whopping depth of 12,500 feet!

Visited Titanic over a dozen times
OceanGate, which was launched in 2009, has been conducting tours in a submersible to the wreckage of Titanic over the last two years. The firm has also been able to visit Titanic over a dozen times since 2010.

OceanGate’s ticket price of USD 250,000 does not include a 650-km sea voyage from Newfoundland in Canada to the ocean surface above the Atlantic. The total duration of the trip is eight days, says the firm’s website.

Apart from OceanGate, Brown & Hudson also conducts a Titanic tour and charges USD 2,93,535, which includes the sea voyage from Canada coast to the spot above the wreck.

The websites of these firms say that travellers need to start preparations for the Titanic trip several months in advance. The travellers are also given guidance on issues like claustrophobia.

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