Can You Scuba Dive To The Titanic?
Some events in human history just stick with us through the ages. Momentous events like landing on the moon or the first pictures of the galaxy are milestones in human achievement.
As well as the things we aspire to, other things, like disasters, also seem to stick with us. There’s no bigger disaster story than what happened to the Titanic on the night of the 14th to 15th April 1912.
Scuba diving professionals and recreational divers all like a wreck to dive and explore. It’s an interesting exploration that few humans get to accomplish, which adds to its allure.
So, can you scuba dive to the Titanic?
No, you cannot scuba dive to the Titanic. The Titanic lies in 12,500 feet of ice cold Atlantic ocean and the maximum depth a human can scuba dive is between 400 to 1000 feet because of water pressure. The increasing water pressure also restricts blood flow by constricting tissue. It takes a submersible 150 minutes to get to the required depth so even assuming a human could survive the crushing pressure it’s not possible to take the required amount of breathable oxygen.
As you might imagine, it’s quite a tricky thing to contemplate. The Titanic is not in an ideal location and getting there comes with many challenges.
An Overview Of The Titanic Location And Depth
It took 14,000 men to build the Titanic in two years and 2 months. At the time it was designed as the largest passenger ship in the world, and built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Five days into its maiden voyage, at 11.40 pm on the night of 14th April 1912 it famously struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic, two days before it was due to dock in New York.
It took a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes to fully submerge with 5 of the 6 front watertight compartments flooding within the first hour.
More than 1500 people died that night, and despite the worldwide coverage of the event, the exact location of the Titanic’s resting place was a mystery until 1985.
The water in that area of the Atlantic is around 3800m in depth.
Tragically, three hours after disaster struck, the maiden voyage of the Titanic turned into a watery tombstone for thousands.
Following a top-secret mission to discover the wrecks of the USS Scorpion and the USS Thresher, two sunken submarines, the discoverer of the Titanic was Robert Ballard, on the 1st September 1985.
The Titanic lay 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland in two separate pieces around 600m apart with a trail of debris between the two sections.
Its precise location is now known and it lays in 12,500 feet of ice-cold water.
What’s The Maximum Depth You Can Scuba Dive To?
While most take up scuba diving to ‘explore the depths’ the truth is is in terms of ocean depth, the water is rather shallow.
An open water certification qualifies you to go to around 60 feet in depth, and there’s a good reason for this.
As it’s the first qualification then only basic skills and fitness can be tested, and the depth is quantified for safety contingent with the level of experience.
Water pressure increases the further you dive. At the surface, the pressure is 1 atmosphere, but as you descend every 33 feet the pressure will increase by an additional atmosphere. Thus at 66 feet depth, the limit for open water certification, there is 3 atmospheres pressure on the diver.
This pressure increases the further you dive down to coincide with the increasing water column above them.
A diver breathes air by expanding the lungs against this pressure. Beyond a few hundred feet this becomes increasingly difficult.
Pressure exerts itself on all tissues in the human body and constricts the blood flow.
While depth gives additional challenges, namely light, sea creatures, and the problem of getting breathable oxygen at depth, the water pressure increases to the point where it becomes impossible to survive.
Professional divers can go to 400 feet and that is 12 atmospheres of pressure that the lungs have to work against.
So how far can a human go down in a water column?
This isn’t an easy question to answer as it can depend upon the physical strength of a diver and for many, it might be a one way trip. It’s not unknown for deep divers to come back up coughing up blood, so there isn’t a really practical limit.
Somewhere between 400 ft and 1000 feet seems like an educated guess.
It’s not defined adequately because there aren’t too many volunteers to be crushed to death for the name of science.
Scuba Diving To The Titanic – An Unrealistic Dream
Physical pressures aside, getting to the Titanic presents many challenges. The location is in a harsh environment for starters.
Scuba uses compressed air technology for normal users and this has a practical limit of around 130 feet if you are just using air.
To cope with the increasing depth a professional diver can get to around 400 to 500 feet with the proper equipment and training, along with the differing air mixes.
People have worked in specialized areas at around 1000 feet but that is far from common.
As the Titanic has 12,500 feet of Atlantic ocean above it it is around 12x further down than we as humans can survive.
It’s simply impossible for a human to visit the Titanic without submersibles.
A scuba tank lasts about 45 minutes to an hour in shallow water, but as you increase the depth the tank will provide less breathable oxygen to the diver.
Even if that wasn’t the case it would take 150 minutes to descend to the depth and scuba equipment cannot cope with hours of breathable air including the time taken to reascend and avoid the barotrauma.
Many people think you might be able to launch from a sub to avoid the requirement for carrying air to the depth but the pressure would crush you instantly, so that’s not plausible as an option to scuba dive the Titanic.
Many people assume that the depth might crush your bones as well, but there isn’t any water depth on the planet that would cause that.
The Femur bone will crush at 24,600 psi. Each atmosphere of water pressure is a 14.7 psi increase.
Thus bones will crush at 1673 atmospheres of depth (24600/14.7).
This is 55,224 feet depth of water, which is nearly 17km beneath the surface. The Marianas trench is 36,200 feet so bone crushes at 60% beyond the deepest ocean water on the planet.
Final Thoughts – Parting Waves
Scuba diving to the Titanic is a mixture of impracticalities and impossibilities.
Coping with getting to the location and dealing with the harsh conditions is but a small part of it. The weather is impractical and descent time for carrying breathable air is longer than is technically possible.
Nitrox allows scuba divers to stay longer at depth but it’s still a relatively shallow gas mix so that’s no help.
The real problem is depth. The Titanic lies in 12,500 feet of water, so even if you could get there, a human could not survive the physical pressure of the water column. It would crush your ability to breathe and restrict blood flow so as to prove fatal.
The only way for a human to see the Titanic in situ is to take a submersible craft to the required location.
Can You Scuba Dive to The Titanic?
Exploring the “unsinkable” Titanic as it sits at the bottom of the ocean might be a scuba diver’s dream. The iconic wreckage has been directly viewed by only a small number of people since it sank in 1912, but its remains are among the most viewed of the ocean’s secrets. Museums, movies and TV shows are great, but can you view it in person?
You cannot scuba dive to the Titanic due to its depth at 12,500 feet.
- External pressure: At 12,500 feet would be 380 times greater than surface
- Water temperature: At 12,500 feet is below freezing point of fresh water
- Light: No visibility at all at 12,500 feet without very large lights
- Air consumption: one standard tank lasts 15 minutes at 120 feet. Supply for 12,500 feet would be impossible to carry even with a team.
- Nitrogen: the amount that would be absorbed would be intolerable well before 12,500 feet
- Nitrogen Narcosis: A state of mental confusion that can occur even at 100 feet, would be unavoidableat 12,500 feet
- Decompression illness: time to safely eliminate nitrogen would be measured in months after diving to 12,500 feet
- The deepest dive on record with special equipment, training and a support team is 1,100 feet.
A limited few have descended in submersibles to research the Titanic wreckage. And a few companies have popped up recently to offer expensive submersible tours for a lucky few. But scuba divers will have to stick to touring the many shallow wrecks scattered around the world. Keep reading for the details on scuba diving safety limits and the Titanic.
Close up underwater photo of the famous bow of the Titanic
Can You Scuba Dive to the Titanic?
As I mentioned previously, recreational divers can only dive to around 130 feet safely. Meanwhile, the Titanic sits underneath 2.3 miles of water. So it is simply not at all possible to scuba dive to the Titanic.
Diving depth limits are determined by external water pressure, safety of breathing air mixtures at pressure, time limits to avoid decompression illness, and practical factors like the total air supply that can be carried, visibility and water temperatures.
At the surface, air pressure is defined as one atmosphere. Since water is denser than air, external pressures on divers’ bodies increase by one atmosphere for every 33 feet of depth. At 130 feet, a diver experiences external pressures 5 time greater than on the surface. 12,500/33=378.8 atmospheres of pressure.
Along with the pressure, descending to 12,500 feet would take a very long time, requiring a massive supply of air. This would likely be next to impossible to do, meaning you would not be able to bring enough air along. While you can swap tanks under water, the pressures, temperatures and risk of decompression illness stand in the way of planning a dive using this technique.
The next issue to note is that the water temperature 2 miles below the surface is below freshwater freezing point. If the water in this location wasn’t saltwater, then it would be ice. Mixing salt in water results in freezing point depression (Wiki source), which is how salt clears roads in winter. This means that no drysuit would be able to provide enough thermal protection to even swim in the area, let alone dive down two miles.
Nitrogen and scuba diving
Air mixture used for diving is the same as air on the earth’s surface. It consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and small amounts of other gases. Nitrogen breathed in at surface pressures is inert. It is exhaled with each breath. But at depth, the pressure results in greater volumes of air being taken in with each breath. This results in larger numbers of nitrogen molecules being absorbed by your body’s tissues.
In order to safely eliminate this stored nitrogen, divers often make safety stops while ascending or ascend at slow rates. This is done to prevent nitrogen from forming bubbles in tissues and joints. Should bubbles occur, they can lead to decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis, joint pain, strokes and even death, depending on where the bubbles end up. (Source)
For more details on all of the risk factors and deeper discussion of how nitrogen is handled by a scuba diver’s body, read my post on the safety and dangers of scuba diving.
The amount of nitrogen that would be absorbed by a diver’s body at 12,500 feet is unknown. But toxic levels and death can occur in as little as 200 feet, so the depth of the Titanic would certainly prevent being able to breath standard air mixtures and eliminate dangerous nitrogen build up.
Decompression stops would not be feasible, as commercial divers who work at depths of 1,000 feet require several days in a decompression chamber. 12,500 feet would pose an insurmountable decompression challenge.
What Are Safe Depths for Scuba Divers?
Recreational scuba divers are able to dive down to 130 feet, which is mostly due to the safety hazards of diving further than this point. The only divers allowed to surpass this depth are scuba divers who have received their specialty training to understand and manage the challenges that come with diving to greater depths.
Why Is There A Scuba Depth Limit?
One hundred thirty feet was originally decided on by the U.S. Navy for several reasons. To reach 130 feet, divers tended to be able to take ten minutes without any decompression stops. While you are able to go further than the 130 without the decompression stops, it wouldn’t allow for much time with the limited air you have.
While part of the reason for this depth is due to the single-cylinder providing limited air, many also found much further past this is when nitrogen narcosis begins to become noticeable. This is when a diver is at a certain depth that causes the gases to be inhaled to begin giving them an narcotic or sedative effect.
What is a Decompression Stop?
Recreational divers don’t tend to need to decompress during a dive, but learning how to decompression dive allows for some divers to go down further. Decompressing allows divers to reach further depths while also being able to stay under longer. This could mean getting to spend longer at a somewhat normal depth or a shorter time at a depth of 164 feet.
Decompression stops are periods where a diver will spend their time at a shallow, constant depth while ascending during a dive. This allows for any inert gases that were absorbed can be safely eliminated, allowing for the body to avoid decompression sickness overall.
The current world record for the deepest dive ever is held by Ahmad Gabr. In 2014, Gabr took 12 minutes to descend to 1090 feet, backed by a team tracking him and helping him switch tanks when needed as I describe here.
Deep Diving and Safety
While the recreational scuba diving limit is right around 130 feet, there are divers that are able to go deeper. But how? What’s involved in a deep dive to ensure the safety of the diver at maximum depths?
Training for Deep Sea Diving
For any kind of scuba diving, certification is mandatory. Deep-sea diving requires even more “in-depth” training. You can become a certified deep-sea diver, or a technical diver, from organizations like the National Association of Underwater Instructors, known for their work with the U.S. Navy Seals.
Deep-sea scuba diving requires equipment outside of what’s needed for a recreational dive. In addition to regular scuba equipment, deep divers need these as well:
- Dive computer
- Underwater flashlight
- Tech diver regulator
Techniques for Technical Diving
In addition to certification and equipment, there are certain techniques that are used in tech diving that are different from recreational diving. For example, gas mixing is an essential part of deep diving. Using the incorrect gas in the air tank is dangerous, and can even result in death.
Preparation is also a key component to technical diving. Both preparing for a specific dive, and preparing to be a technical diver in general are important factors to consider. This means strongly considering why you want to be a technical diver.
Brief Timeline of Titanic Trips
1985 – Titanic site discovered by American-French team
1986 – Submersible Alvin explores wreck
1987 – First salvage expedition collects 1,800 Titanic artefacts
1995 – James Cameron visits the wreck – footage is used in his film Titanic
1998 – First tourist visits
1998 – Section of the Titanic hull is raised
2005 – Two crewed submersibles dive to the wreck
2010 – Autonomous robots map the site
2012 – Wreck now protected by Unesco
2019 – DSV Limiting Factor sub makes five dives
1986: First manned exploration of Titanic
The Titanic was reached by a manned expedition for the first time. Containing a crew of 3, the submersible Alvin made 11 trips to the wreck, taking the first images and recordings seen since the ship sank in 1912. (Source)
Many trips were made to the Titanic over the years by various countries and scientific organizations. Many artifacts were recovered.
A controversial 1996 expedition tried unsuccessfully to raise a section of the ship. Accompanied by cruise ship tourists, include many celebrities, the attempt famously failed when the ropes broke in bad weather as the section reached 200 feet from the surface.
After sinking back to below 12,000 feet, the section was successfully retrieved in 1998. Of course, everyone knows about the multiple James Cameron trips and his eventual blockbuster movie. But a lot may not know of the many unusual trips made.
In 2001, a wedding actually occurred on a submersible that landed on the bow of the ship to recreate a scene from the movie. James Cameron made multiple follow up trips for documentaries and an additional movie.
The last manned dive to the Titanic was made in 2005 before a 14 year gap.
2012: Protection of an historic artifact
By the time 2012 rolled around, 140 people had visited the wreck of the Titanic on dozens of expeditions. At the 100 year mark after its sinking, the Titanic reached eligibility for protection per the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.
This move helped preserve the remaining wreck structure from souvenir recovery and unauthorized trips that at times resulted in irreversible damage to a piece of history. An expedition made in 2019 revealed that the remains of the Titanic are rapidly deteriorating (source).
2018: The Resurgence Of Touring The Titanic
In 2018 OceanGate Expeditions decided to put Titanic tourist options back on the table. But there have been several setbacks and delays in implementing these trips. And estimated costs continue to rise. The most recent 2021 price ranges up to $150,000 per passenger. The owners of OceanGate insist there will be no recovery attempts made, just observations and more documentation of the current state of the wreck.
Submersible Trips To The Titanic
It has been observed that the Titanic is decomposing at an increasing rate. While some areas are still in somewhat shockingly good condition, other areas are quickly being lost to time. After 100 hundred years of sitting at the bottom of the ocean, many believe it won’t last much longer than 20 years or so.
Another interesting fact to consider is that even the wreckage itself can’t be removed at this point. This is mostly due to the strong ocean currents that are causing salt corrosion and metal-eating bacteria to destroy the ship.
As mentioned, it is possible to descend to the Titanic thanks to the capabilities of modern marine technology. One of the ways to reach the remains is through what are called MIR submersibles. These durable submarines are able to hold passengers and remain steady air pressures and temperatures at depths of 20,000 feet, meaning it can reach to the ocean floor.
Using MIR Submersibles To Reach The Titanic
The first MIR submersibles were typically very small and could only carry up to three people. Further advances began between 2012 and 2018, where tourism interests grew in the hopes of taking visitors to the depths of where the Titanic resides. After the ability of advanced marine technology was developed and tourism was made possibly, the MIR submersibles were upgraded to hold about nine passengers total.
These submersibles maintain a constant air pressure similar to that at the surface. This allows for prevention of nitrogen build up and medical complications while also avoids having passengers exposed to extreme pressures.
The MIR submersibles also have to control temperatures for passengers to avoid extreme and dangerous drops. This usually occurs around the 3,000 feet range of the dive.
Also, when diving into the Titanic is that you will be expected to see zero sunlight by the time you reach about 700 feet or so of deep water. Once you get past this point, you will be immersed in complete darkness. The MIR has lights to showcase the marine life that lives in these depths.
Getting Ready To Descend To The Titanic
Once the submersible reaches the same depth level of where the Titanic is located, it will then begin its small tour around the remains. Passengers remain in the submersible due to the high water pressures and low temperatures, along with the risks of nitrogen build up and decompression illness described above.
What the MIR submersible does is allow some passengers that have undergone training to be able to go visit the remains on a round trip that takes about 8 to 11 hours.
Returning Back To The Surface
After touring the remains of the Titanic, the submersible will then be ready to ascend back to the surface. This is a steady controlled ascent managed by experienced submersible operators.
Do People Travel To The Titanic?
Though it is possible to visit the Titanic as mentioned above, the ability to do so is not common. This is due to how expensive the trip can cost and that there is really no purpose to go to the remains of the Titanic outside of historical research, except to experience something that only a few people will ever do.
While deeper depths than the standard 130-foot limit for recreational divers are possible with decompressing, you would still be unable to make it the 2.3 miles down to the Titanic. This is largely due to the pressure most likely being strong enough to break bones and also cause new unknowns in your bodies reaction to gases,
The other worry is largely based around the depths requiring a trip that is much too long for the amount of gas you would be able to bring along. Even if you were able to carry the correct amount of gas, the water itself would also be much to freezing to even dive in normally.
The area around the Titanic is difficult to reach and is impossible to dive to. While the ship itself can’t be viewed, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to appreciate it.
Recommended Titanic reading
All about the Titanic’s Pool One of my favorite Titanic articles comparing 1912 to modern cruising
Can You Scuba Dive To The titanic?
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to dive to the Titanic.
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to dive to the Titanic? This blog article takes a look at the process, what you need, and the different sights that a diver might see.
If you are planning on scuba diving to the Titanic, be careful where you do it because you may end up in an underwater world you never knew existed! No matter how hard you try, once you step into the water, it is impossible to stay dry, the oxygen level is too low. This article will answer the question of whether or not scuba diving is possible to a depth that will allow humans to visit the Titanic.
What is the Titanic? Can you scuba dive to the Titanic?
The Titanic was the largest and most luxurious passenger steamship ever built. She was launched on 14 April 1912 and completed on 12 May 1912. On 15 April 1912, she struck an iceberg while traveling from Southampton to New York City and sank in 15 minutes. More than 1,500 people died in the disaster.
Why does scuba diving to the Titanic matter?
The Titanic is a legendary ship that stands as one of the most iconic vessels in history. On April 15, 1912, the ship sailed from Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City. Just 83 days later, on April 20th, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg and quickly began to sink. Despite frantic attempts by crew and passengers to save themselves, over 1,500 people lost their lives when the Titanic went down into the icy depths of the North Atlantic.
Today, scuba diving enthusiasts can explore the wreckage of the Titanic nearly 120 years after it sank. Thanks to modern technology and preservation techniques, visitors can explore this historical site in incredible detail. Not only does this provide a fascinating glimpse into maritime history, but it also allows for continued memorialization of those lost in the tragedy.
So why should you consider diving on the Titanic?
There are a number of reasons why scuba diving on this ship is such an important activity. First and foremost, it provides a unique opportunity to explore one of history’s most famous maritime disasters in depth. Second, scuba diving to the Titanic offers an unparalleled experience when it comes to learning about maritime safety and emergency procedures. And finally, the ship itself is a dynamic creature that exhibits a great deal of natural movement. The following is an overview of the most important aspects about diving to the Titanic as you embark on your scuba diving expedition
Who has tried to dive and explore Titanic?
A large number of people have tried and failed to explore this historic vessel in such a way as to ensure their safety. As previously mentioned, the ship has moved quite extensively since it was sunk and there are reports of large waves and currents making exploring it all but impossible. This, coupled with its proximity to the ocean surface and underwater debris, makes it very unlikely that you will encounter any dangerous marine life or other hazards while diving into the Titanic. It can be difficult to know where precisely you
How to dive to the Titanic?
Diving on the Titanic has long been one of the divers’ dream destinations. But is it possible? The answer is yes and no. While it’s technically possible to dive into the wreck of the Titanic, doing so is not recommended by most experts. Here’s why:
First, the site is extremely dangerous. The wreckage lies at a depth of about 100 feet, and because of the intense currents and poor visibility, diving there is asking for trouble. Second, despite being nearly 100 years old, the wreck is still in very bad condition. The metal has corroded, making it difficult to see and potentially dangerous to explore. Finally, diving to the Titanic is a popular tourist destination and there are already plenty of dive operators vying for your business. If you decide to go ahead and dive there, be prepared for a long wait for a spot on the boat.
What Do We Know In Terms of The Titanic’s Final Moments?
As the Titanic sunk on April 14, 1912, after hitting an iceberg, few knew what happened in the final moments of the ship. We do know that there was a horrific and sudden explosion as the ship went down, which caused many people to perish. Survivors recounted that they could see flames and smoke coming from the ship as it went down. It is still unknown what caused this explosion or how many people died as a result.
Conclusion: Can You Scuba Dive To The titanic?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no. While scuba diving to the Titanic has become a popular topic for ghost hunters and history buffs alike, it is not possible to dive there as the wreck has been submerged since its sinking in 1912. If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating ship and her infamous voyage, I suggest checking out some of the documentaries available on Netflix or YouTube.