Paying $147,000 to see the Titanic

VIDEO: REUTERS
Renata Rojas (right) and Mr Stockton Rush.
Renata Rojas (right) and Mr Stockton Rush.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Ms Renata Rojas has longed to visit the wreck of the Titanic since she was a girl, years before the ill-fated passenger liner was discovered on the seabed some three decades ago.

Next year, the 49-year-old New York banker and diving enthusiast should finally realise her dream. She is shelling out more than US$105,000 (S$147,000) for the privilege.

"I don't own an apartment. I don't own a car. I haven't gone to Everest yet. All of my savings have been going towards my dream, which is going to the Titanic," said Ms Rojas.

She last tried to visit the wreck on a 2012 centennial expedition, but it was cancelled.

I don't own an apartment. I don't own a car. I haven't gone to Everest yet. All of my savings have been going towards my dream, which is going to the Titanic.

NEW YORK BANKER AND DIVING ENTHUSIAST RENATA ROJAS, 49 (with Mr Stockton Rush, chief executive of OceanGate, which is launching submersible expeditions to see the Titanic next year)

Beginning next May, OceanGate Expeditions will launch a series of deep dives aboard a submersible for people like Ms Rojas, who want to see the infamous shipwreck.

The company has the only privately owned manned research submarine in the world capable of diving to the Titanic's depth, with the other four such vessels in the hands of governments, said its chief executive Stockton Rush.

A lack of private submarines and the hefty price tag for commercial trips are key reasons the site has not been explored by dive teams in 12 years.

Fewer than 200 people are estimated to have visited the wreck.

All told, more than 50 passengers, or "mission specialists" as OceanGate calls them, will set off from the Canadian island of Newfoundland on six scheduled eight-day trips.

The company will take nine people at a time on a ship to the site, with each given an assignment such as photographing artefacts from the debris field.

From there, they will take turns diving in the small submarine to get a close-up view of the hulk.

The object of their fascination is the Titanic, which sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912. It rammed an iceberg on its maiden voyage from England to New York, killing more than 1,500 people.

The wreckage, located in 1985, lies on the North Atlantic ocean floor at a depth of more than 3.2km.

One of the worst maritime disasters, the sinking of the state-of- the-art liner sparked outrage and grief and still stirs deep emotions for many.

Ms Rojas said this is because it was "a tragedy that wasn't supposed to happen".

"It disappeared for years, it was mystical and that attracts a lot of people," she noted.

It was the inspiration for the 1997 film Titanic, a tragic love story that won Best Picture and Best Director for James Cameron at the Oscars.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2017, with the headline 'Paying $147,000 to see the Titanic'. Print Edition | Subscribe