Resting at a depth of 4000m, the RMS Titanic continues to captivate the public more than a century after it sunk to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean. It has now been announced that those still intrigued by the vessel will be able to see it for themselves, by joining diving trips to the shipwreck in 2018.
Commencing in May next year, London-based tour operator Blue Marble Private will run eight-day journeys that will culminate with an up-close encounter with what is the most fabled vessel of modern times. Open to just nine clients at a time, groups will begin their experience by flying by helicopter or seaplane from St John's, Newfoundland to the expedition support yacht set somewhere above the wreck.
There will be time to adjust to this new environment, with this small group of privileged visitors being taught about the ship's workings on their second day on board by its crew and guest explorers, scientists and expedition crew.
Those who wish to engage more directly with the workings of the ship will have the opportunity to take part in orientation sessions and can "assist" the crew in planning a dive, operating the sonar and using the undersea navigation system.
It's on days three to six that the expedition is at its most exciting, however. Should weather conditions allow, that is when up to three passengers at a time will clamber aboard a specially designed titanium and carbon fibre submsersible to see the decaying remains of the Titanic itself.
Accompanied by a pilot and deep ocean expert, they will sail over the ship's deck and should even be able to glimpse its still recognisable grand staircase from amongst the detritus.
Dives will take place throughout the day on night, dependent on when weather conditions are most favourable, and Blue Marble Private's clients will be expected to contribute to the mission (if even in just a cursory way) by assisting with sub-sea communications and undertaking basic tasks.
Buffering their descents will be lectures, discussions, mission updates and dive briefs with deep ocean explorers and scientists, all intended to give them a deeper appreciation of the efforts required to make the dive possible. After a debrief and a further day at sea, groups will return to St John's.
As well as being a true once-in-a-lifetime experience for the few who avail of this package, seeing the Titanic in person remains a truly privileged experience shared by very few people on the planet.
The doomed vessel, which measured more than 268m long and 30m tall, went down with the loss of more than 1500 lives on April 15, 1912 during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.