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Tour (and Trash) The Titanic

December 5, 2011

Deep Sea Boondoggle

Is there no tragedy, no anniversary, that is beyond the human capacity for commercialization? Probably not.

Latest case in point: 100 year anniversary tours of the Titanic by deep submersible, yours for only $60,000.

Quite apart from whatever you might think about bankers and other 1-percenters throwing down a fee equal to a year’s salary for most people, the key point is that the steady accumulation of Titanic tours, from both above and under the sea, is taking a toll:

Scientists and scholars worry about new damage to the famous ship and new dishonor to a gravesite strewn with the shoes and other belongings of so many drowned people. However, they see the centennial as not only a potential threat but also an opportunity to lobby for a global accord that would establish rules for the Titanic’s protection.

“We need a basic agreement,” said James P. Delgado, director of maritime heritage at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors the wreck.

Already, the site is quite littered. Passing cruise ships dump beer cans and garbage bags. On the seabed, the mini-submarines have set up memorial plaques with artificial flowers. At times, the subs have also accidentally bumped into the increasingly fragile wreck.

“It could get real crowded out there,” Dr. Delgado said of the centennial rush. Despite the legitimacy of wide public interest, he added, “there are some things that shouldn’t happen,” like dumping trash and leaving behind equipment.

Gawking at an underwater gravesite is creepy enough. Slowly destroying it as you do so is beyond the pale.

Plus, you can take the tour right here, for free (yes, this footage is shot by a submersible, but it has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people; in contrast to a submersible tour that shows the wreck to, um, exactly two wealthy tourists per voyage).

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