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Titanic To Get First Paying Customers In 109 Years As Expedition Documents Deteriorating Wreck

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Jack Dunhill

Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer

clockJul 2 2021, 18:17 UTC

The bow of the RMS Titanic. Image courtesy of NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island/Public Domain

Cemented in history as likely the most famous shipwreck of all time, the RMS Titanic is now decaying incredibly quickly as it is buffeted by the deep ocean. The wreck, which lies 3.8 kilometers (2.37 miles) below the surface about 740 kilometers (400 nautical miles) off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, is rapidly disintegrating and could soon be unrecognizable. 

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Before that happens, an exploration company is beginning annual trips to document the historic site, starting this week, and the average person (with plenty of cash) can ride along.

Last year, OceanGate Expeditions announced for the price of around $100,000-$150,000 civilians will be able to board the company's submersible Titan and travel down to see the Titanic. Now, the first expedition, with a team made up of researchers and nine citizen scientists, has embarked from Newfoundland to start chronicling the ship's deterioration. This will be the first commercial expedition to the Titanic, and the first time tourists will have ever seen the wreck up close.

While the price is premium – though not as much as the mystery bidder who just paid $28 million to go to space with Jeff Bezos – the trip includes a full week-long experience as the team documents the full extent of the wreckage. Passengers will help the team collect images and sonar data around the debris field, document the sea life, and be some of the only people to visit the wreck before its inevitable demise.  

Since its discovery in 1985, the ship's forward mast has collapsed, the poop deck collapsed, the crow's nest has disappeared, the gymnasium by the grand staircase has collapsed and the Captain's bathtub, made visible when the cabin walls fell down, has disappeared. The bow could collapse at any time.

Captain Smith's bathtub. Image credit: Lori Johnston, RMS Titanic Expedition 2003, NOAA-OE/Public Domain

The 109-year-old pioneering "unsinkable" ocean liner is being battered by ocean currents and consumed by steel-eating bacteria and archaea. Some have predicted it could disappear in just decades as holes cause more collapse and entire sections disintegrate.

“The ocean is taking this thing, and we need to document it before it all disappears or becomes unrecognizable,” Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions, told AP. With the help of wealthy tourists offering up funding for the ride, they hope to document as much as possible of the wreck, the progression of decay, and even the ecosystem that has sprung up around it.

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