Kiwi diver a Titanic veteran

By Susan Edmunds

Kiwi Rob McCallum is the last living person to have seen the Titanic. But he is no grizzled old sailor recalling the day the "unsinkable" liner plunged beneath the waves 100 years ago this month.

The 46-year-old Aucklander visited the wreck five years ago in a high-tech submersible. And this month, he will lead an expedition back to the wreck, charging wealthy tourists US$59,500 ($72,700) to make the 2 hour trip down to the ghostly wreck on one of his firm's submersibles.

McCallum, now based in Seattle, is expedition leader at Deep Ocean Expeditions, which provides scientific, exploratory and tourist dives.

He says it's not too different from his old job with the Department of Conservation, as he's still "making complex things happen in remote locations".

To mark the centenary of the ship's sinking, on April 15, 80 people have bought tickets to make the dive. Groups of two and a pilot will make the trip down in one of the few submersibles that can handle the pressure that comes with being 3780m down.

They will spend up to four hours looking at the bow section of the ship, the boilers and one of the propellers.

"The first time I saw it was awesome," McCallum said. "There's a moment in every expedition when you see what you came for and it's 'wow' - emotional.

All the hard work and effort you've gone to has suddenly paid off."

He was struck by the size of the Titanic and its new inhabitants. "When you look out a porthole 4km underwater and see life, that's pretty special, as well. It's pitch-black, frigid and yet there's life there."

McCallum said the people who went on the dives were surprisingly average. "Nurses, teachers, journalists ... people who are captivated by whatever captivates them. But they think hard about what they are going to do because it costs a lot of money."

Stairway to history

Mary Gould will never get the chance to dive to the seabed to see the magnificent staircase her grandfather built for the ballroom of the Titanic.

But with the release of the movie in 3D this month, the Aucklander hopes to at least get a decent impression of what it might have looked like in all its glory.

Gould's grandfather and uncle worked on the construction of the Titanic at the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast.

Her grandfather crafted the magnificent staircase into the ship's grand ballroom, before he moved to New Zealand to work as a carpenter on the railways in the 1920s.

"He was proud of it, of course," said the Pt Chevalier woman. "The family is proud of it."

- Herald on Sunday

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