My dive to the Titanic

In 2003 I was given a wonderful once in a lifetime opportunity: to dive the shipwreck of RMS Titanic.

More than a century after it slipped under the waves at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, Titanic remains a constant object of fascination, intrigue and ever-evolving legend. More people have been to outer space than down to the wreck site in the North Atlantic.

By the ships’ 100th centenary, less than 80 people had been to see her, and I was given the challenge to visit the shipwreck on a TV show I was presenting.

We sailed to the wreck site from the east coast of Canada on board the magnificent RV Akademik Mstislav Keldysh.

The Keldysh was designed and built as the largest working scientific research vessel in the world for use with the Deep Water Submersibles, Mir 1 and 2.

Whilst on board the ship I was introduced to the “father of the Mir program” Dr. Anatoly Sagalevich, the man who designed the submersibles and even has brief parts in James Cameron’s film about Titanic.

The Mir 1 submersible we dived in is 25 feet long, but it’s only 7 feet inside, which makes it very cosy for two passengers and the pilot! And the trip was not without its dangers so I was nervous, excited and of course apprehensive.

All for a glimpse of the ravaged remains of the once-grand ship through a five- or eight-inch porthole.

We dropped down to the wreck site in Mir 1 at 90 feet per minute. Down, down, down I went, for three hours, jammed with two other people in a tiny submersible, all the way to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Then we saw the bow of the ship, which looked just like it does in the Titanic film.

It was surreal. Here I was less than 15 feet from the bow with all its rusticles (formations of rust similar in appearance to an icicle or stalactite), and yet all I could think was, “wow, wow, wow…this was the ship of dreams.”

This is a ship that the first class passengers paid an equivalent of £79,000 today to ride on, and now here it lays, the death bed of all those victims of man’s stupidity.

The stupidity of pushing a ship too hard, of not having enough lifeboats, of not seeing an iceberg in time.

This is the famed Titanic

When we got to the starboard side of the wreck, which was covered in thick rust, it rose up in front of me out of view.

I pulled up close as close as possible to the video feed on the screen in front of us, which we had powered up just before we reached the bottom.

But I didn’t want to take me eyes away from the window either. It was the most amazing sight I had ever seen.

We passed a row of round portholes about 20 feet up from the bottom then continued up another 15 feet to a row of rectangular windows, all with their glass intact.

When we got to the stern all we saw was a tangled mess. It was hard to distinguish things. But we did see the port propeller embedded in the sand.

Then we went over the debris field surrounding the ship where we saw bottles, third class soup cups, a wash basin, and another cup with the words “White Star” on it.

I also saw children’s high shoes, and suitcases were a constant remainder of the journey all the passengers were taking. Seeing personal items like this had a huge impact on me.

Titanic has long fascinated, because it symbolized the end of an era of technological innocence and seemed like a cosmic rebuke to privilege.

Ten millionaires were on board, including the financier John Jacob Astor IV, the industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim and Isidor Straus of Macy’s, the world’s largest department store. All three perished with the ship.

I studied the ship, its history and passengers for nearly a year and would be able to recognise floor tiles as they lay on the floor such was the in depth research I did on her.

In total we spent five hours travelling around the ship, which lies in two parts, half a mile separating each of them. Despite having been there for nearly 100 years – she is still beautiful and enormous.

When people ask what she is like, I tell them it’s like being on the dark side of the moon. And diving Titanic’s wreck was like being on a rollercoaster of emotions.

I had completed a tremendously difficult race, seen a part of the world that fascinated me, and achieved my goal of finishing the race.

On one hand, I couldn’t help but get very excited to see the ship. We were looking at am infamous ship that had been lying at the bottom of the ocean for many years.

On the other hand I was feeling in awe at seeing the place where so many people had lived the last desperate moments of their lives. I was constantly reminded by the personal belongings I saw that we were at the watery graveyard for more than 1,500 people.

I look back at the journey and feel very honoured and lucky to have had the opportunity to visit the resting site of Titanic.

Because unfortunately for those determined to solve the mystery behind her ill-fated maiden voyage, the window of opportunity to study what remains of the ship will soon come to a close.

According to studies, what remains of Titanic will likely be little more than a rust stain on the ocean floor by 2030.

So I went on a privileged journey to be one of only 80 people in the world at the time to have dived to the bottom of the Atlantic to see the Titanic’s shipwreck.

After making this documentary I knew that it was this kind of television making that really excited me.

The journey coupled with the experience of meeting new people from all walks of life was a way of incorporating my love of the outdoors, adrenaline and adventure with telling a story.

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