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Titanic voyages

Marine Institute, OceanGate partner on student internships for shipwreck expeditions

Teaching and Learning

By Moira Baird

The Marine Institute is partnering with OceanGate Expeditions, the company that surveys the Titanic wreck annually.

Stockton Rush and the OceanGate submersible, Titan.
Photo: Angie Bishop

The partnership will provide opportunities for student internships in support of OceanGate’s eight-day expeditions from St. John’s, N.L., to the site of the famous 1912 shipwreck.

The company uses a five-person submersible capable of diving to ocean depths of up to 4,000 metres to conduct the dives.

“We would like to host one or two cadets per cycle,” said Stockton Rush, who is chief submersible pilot, founder and CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, which is based in Everett, Wash. “Cadets can get hands-on experience by helping with submersible maintenance and operations. There’s always a lot going on whether we’re diving or preparing to dive.”

An algae-encrusted bow of a sunken boat in dark water.
The bow of the Titanic wreck photographed by OceanGate in 2021.
Photo: OceanGate Expeditions

The partners will also work together to promote ocean literacy, technology, exploration and the blue economy.

Our partnership with OceanGate expands the opportunities for our students to participate in ocean exploration and gain hands-on experience by supporting the pre-departure preparation and through on-shore and sea-based work terms,” said Dr. Angie Clarke, associate vice-president (Marine Institute) academic and student affairs. “These expeditions provide students with insight into both history and their own futures in the ocean technology field as they support the dive teams and OceanGate’s use of deep-sea technology.”

Dr. Angie Clarke
Photo: Submitted

The Marine Institute will provide storage and workspace for the submersible, equipment and company personnel as they prepare for the third annual Titanic expedition in May.

Each dive offers three spots for customers who are trained as mission specialists and perform a variety of tasks, including sonar scans of the wreck, operating external cameras and communicating with the surface team.

Named Titan, the submersible is constructed of a wound carbon-fibre cylinder with titanium endcaps. The forward endcap has a large acrylic viewport which gives mission specialists a wide-angle, closeup view of the wreck.

The crew capsule remains at surface pressure for the entire dive, meaning the crew does not need to decompress after a dive.

Artificial reef

Mr. Rush says the annual dives are an opportunity to document the evolution of the decaying wreck.

“Our ability to dive to 4,000 metres allows us to explore the wreck and observe how it acts as an artificial reef in the muddy, abyssal plain of the North Atlantic,” he said. “The scientists who join our expeditions are using eDNA and video imagery to assess the ecosystem surrounding the wreck and model the dispersal of corals across the ocean floor.

“This research is only possible because the individuals who join us pay a training and mission support fee that allows us to return to the wreck annually and bring scientists and archaeologists on every expedition,” he continued. “The science team also receives support from OceanGate Foundation.”

In the video below, OceanGate discovered a thriving, biodiverse ecosystem on a basalt formation near the Titanic at a depth of 2,900 metres.

‘Beautiful wreck’

The MV Polar Prince, operated by Miawpukek Horizon Maritime Services, will tow the 6.7-metre-long Titan and its launch and recovery system (LARS) to the site.

During the launch, the LARS sinks about 10 metres below the ocean surface and the submersible lifts off underwater.

The sub takes two-and-a-half hours to descend to the ocean floor and return to the surface. The crew spends 3-5 hours at the wreck site.

“One of the comments that’s very common is how beautiful the wreck is,” said Mr. Rush. “It is colonized by the bacteria that eat the iron and excrete colourful rusticles that cover much of the ship. They are amazing shades of red and orange, and then you get greens and blues from the copper and brass as they change. It’s one of the most beautiful wrecks I’ve ever seen.”

Rusticles are icicle-like formations often found on sunken ships.

Last month OceanGate released the video below showing detailed images of the Titanic, rusticles and corals.

Expedition partners

The company works with local partners wherever it operates.

“We’ve been very fortunate that companies like Miawpukek Horizon Maritime, SubC Imaging, eDNAtec, A. Harvey Logistics and D.F. Barnes have dedicated their expertise, services and products to making this project a success,” said Mr. Rush. “We couldn’t have done this without their support. We are especially eager to begin this partnership with Memorial University and our other local partners.”


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