Though the 2023 Ocean’s Gate submarine disaster at the Titanic wreck site is tragic news, it isn’t the first accident that’s occurred at this treacherous dive site. Three other submarines have previously encountered safety issues – and the wreck of the Titanic has only ever been viewed by 250 people, due to the dangers involved in the perilous 3,700-metre dive!
The Titanic’s remains were first found just 23 years ago in 1985 but its final resting place is still a location packed full of mysteries and intrigue. Located at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, this incredibly historically significant wreck brings up a host of emotions – not least because it was originally billed as the “unsinkable ship”. Initially, the Titanic was a marvel of human engineering but after colliding with an iceberg on April 15, 1912, the record breaking ocean liner sank on its maiden voyage, resulting in a massive loss of life.
A journey down into the wreck is extremely dangerous – but for the few that have made it, it’s been ultimately rewarding, giving explorers first hand access to the remains of one of history’s most iconic and tragic moments. The Titanic is also slowly disintegrating, which means the time to explore it is running out – but given the many challenges involved, accessing the site is near to impossible.
Getting down there is extremely expensive but luckily, lighted submersibles and remote operated vehicles have made the remains more explorable, giving the rest of us some stunning shots and footage. Diving the Titanic site isn’t recommended, as this requires a high level of technical skill, as well as robust equipment designed to meet the extreme conditions, particularly as the ship is situated around 12,500 feet below the Atlantic Ocean.
Anyone seeking to explore the wreck will have to combat numerous challenges, including the limited visibility, which makes it difficult to see and navigate and can cause disorientation. The Titanic is situated in what’s known as a “midnight zone” – which means the ocean that surrounds it is pitch black – because sunlight is absorbed quickly by water and isn’t visible beyond depths of approximately 1,000 metres below the surface. Divers have reported having to descend for two hours through complete darkness before reaching the wreckage itself!
Even if you overcome this hurdle, you’ll still have to overcome the immense pressure, as the farther down any object descends into the ocean, the higher the pressure of the water surrounding it. The Titanic is 3,800 metres underwater, so the pressure around it is almost 400 x higher than it is on the surface.
Then there’s the cold temperatures – although not freezing, the average sea temperature of the water by the wreck is 39 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.8 degree Celsius. When the Titanic sank the water temperature was even lower, at just 28F, or -2.7 C, which caused hypothermia to set in quickly for many unlucky passengers.
Underwater currents can pose further problems for Titanic explorers, especially as part of the wreckage is located near the Western Boundary. This is a part of the Atlantic seabed which is impacted by a stream of southward flowing freezing water, creating sand dunes and ripples which cause problems with mapping and orientation.
Diving the Titanic brings you face to face with the past and inspires a range of feelings, from reverence for the number of lives lost, to amazement at the ship’s sheer size and scale. The Titanic is one of the most dangerous dives there is – but if you do become one of the few who make it down there, seeing the haunting landscape, scattered personal belongings and artefacts from the tragedy up close will undoubtedly be a once in a lifetime experience.