By W. T. Farquhar
The world’s first attempt to scuba dive on the Titanic, once thought to be impossible, was successfully carried out this weekend, according to reports.
RMS Titanic, possibly the most famous shipwreck of all time, struck an iceberg in the northern Atlantic during her maiden voyage on 15 April 1915
‘The dive took years of planning,’ said Cameron James, the extreme diver who undertook the challenge, reportedly spending as much as $200 million in the process.
‘You can’t just jump off a boat and swim down,’ said Mr James. ‘It’s over 4km deep and the water is very cold. You’d be hypothermic before you got even part of the way.’
Instead, Mr James took a deep sea submersible down to the Titanic, exiting through a special chamber that serves as both an airlock and lavatory, where he was able to spend just a few short minutes exploring the upper deck of the ship.
‘The pressure at that depth is immense,’ said James. ‘You can inhale one tank of air in a single breath, so I had to carry a lot of tanks with me, and breathe very, very slowly.’
Unexpected problems that shallow-water divers would never anticipate had to be dealt with swiftly and creatively. ‘I passed wind in my specially constructed drysuit,’ said James, with a sheepish grin. ‘The suit expanded so rapidly, I started to look like the Michelin Man in no short order.
‘Fortunately, I was at that same moment staring at a discarded hat-pin,’ said James. ‘I poked a hole in the arm of the suit, just big enough to allow the gas to escape, but not enough that the squeeze would crush the family jewels,’ he joked. ‘Or, you know, my rib cage.’
It wasn’t just underwater that concerns arose. Luke S. George, who was supervising the dive from the surface support ship, said that a huge cloud of bubbles rose to the surface and almost sank the vessel. ‘It was immense,’ said George, ‘as if the sea had suddenly started to boil.’
‘I had a little freeflow,’ said James. ‘just for a second, but the expansion of gas from a depth of 4,000m made it look like a herd of blue whales had farted simultaneously under the ship.’
Asked if he found anything of note, James told us that he didn’t have a lot of time to explore. ‘I only saw the bow area, really,’ he said. ‘Apart from the hat-pin, the only thing I found that looked out of kilter was this large wooden board.’ As he holds out his hands to demonstrate, he continues ‘it was about the sort of size that two people could have lain side by side on it. Like a large two-person life raft, really.’
But the mystery of what it was doing down there will remain forever unknown. ‘I hoped that maybe two lucky passengers were able to climb on board,’ he says, somewhat forlornly. ‘Maybe they could have held onto each other to get out of the water and keep warm until the rescue ship arrived.’
‘Who knows,’ said Cameron James. ‘One day, maybe they’ll make a movie….’
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