Editorial – Profiting from ‘tours’ of the ‘Titanic’ wreckage is immoral

Mac Olsen

Some wealthy folks with deep pockets are going to indulge themselves this year by taking underwater tours of the ‘Titanic’ site, but they should ashamed of themselves for doing so.

They’re engaging in what I prefer to call ‘ego-tourism’.

OceanGate Inc. in Everett, Washington is offering the trips for $130,000, according to an article in the National Post from Jan. 22. Those who have the courage and sense of adventure will travel over 4,000 metres below the Atlantic Ocean for these “tours.” The company says the purpose is to conduct “research” and photography on the state of the wreckage, and that those who go down have to pass training requirements.

But if the company is conducting “research,” why does it need to add a “tourism” component? It should be able to find one or two big sponsors without having to resort to “tourism” to get the job done.

Moreover, those who are paying for the privilege of taking these submersible trips – have they no regard for desecrating a gravesite?

The ‘Titanic’ is a gravesite and it should be respected as such. It should not require a reminder that more than 1,500 people died on that ship in 1912 and that what remains of the ship and the passengers should not be subject to snooping and undue curiosity by the well-to-do.

I wonder how they would feel if the same thing happened to their families’ gravesites?

The personal effects and other items recovered from the ocean after the sinking are appropriately in place in museums, giving us some sense of what the survivors and those who drowned endured.

When Robert D. Ballard found the wreckage of the ‘Titanic’ in 1985, he respected it as a gravesite by not retrieving anything.

Then there was James Cameron’s expeditions to the gravesite, which ultimately led to the release of his blockbuster movie in 1997.

In later years, Cameron made several documentaries about the ‘Titanic’, one commenting on how the ship represented wealth and status, and how those who built it were exploited as labourers and that it is a fitting social commentary on the state of the world today.

This is an altruistic message on Cameron’s part, but given that he prospered from his movie, why hasn’t he stood up to condemn OceanGate Inc. and other companies that carry out “tours”?

Besides, what more can be learned from these expeditions and tourism of the Titanic?

That gravesite is almost 106 years old and the metal and other components of the ship must be too far gone to provide any new historical or scientific information, and continued disturbances are only further indignations to the memories of those who survived or perished.

Below the depths of the sea isn’t the only place where the well-to-do have made their mark. The International Space Station has also been the subject of tourism by the ultra rich. In 2001, Dennis Tito became the first “space tourist” to travel to the ISS, paying $20 million for the privilege.

Ego-tourism, indeed.

We, as a world, should decide whether these kinds of “adventures” should even be allowed, regardless of whether people can afford them or not.


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