Date: July 10, 2005
World Record: The first and only author to do both a book signing and the first memorial prayer said down by the wreck site of the Titanic in my capacity as an ordained minister while inside the Mir 1.
Documentation: Photos, videos, newspaper clippings, television appearances, certificates and name in log on the Kelydysh.
Depth: 12, 465 feet down. (2.4 miles down)
Where: The wreck site of the Titanic, 380 miles Southeast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Exact Coordinates of shipwreck: 41 43′ 70 N
(The ship broke in two as it sank, the stern and bow lie 1,970 feet apart on the ocean floor.)
World record mindset used to accomplish this:
“Fear nothing, but if you do, do it anyway” and “Never be afraid to ask for what you want in life.”
Interesting side notes: Less than 180 people have been down to the wreck site of the Titanic. More people have been to outer space! Fran Capo was on the last civilian voyage down to the wreck-site.
Quick facts: The RMS Titanic was the largest man-made moving object on earth at its time. This luxury liner cost $7.5 million to build. It was 882 feet and 9 inches, and weighed 46, 328 tons. (It took 22 horses just to lift the anchor!) Its top speed was 23 knots. It took 176 men to hand shovel the 600 tons of coal per day to run the ship. It was thought to be unsinkable. Yet on its maiden voyage in 1912, tragedy struck, just three days after raising anchor for the last time leaving Queenstown Ireland. In April of 1912 there were about 300 icebergs in the North Atlantic shipping lanes, the most seen in route between Europe and North America in 50 years.
The Titanic struck one of those 100 feet tall icebergs on April 14, 1912. It took just 37 seconds from the time they spotted the iceberg till they hit it. But too much damage was done. By 2 a.m. on April 15th it sunk, 350 miles off the southeast coast of Newfoundland. There were 2223 passengers aboard, 1517 of them died, including Captain Smith who went down with his ship and whose body was never recovered. Only 320 bodies were found, the rest remained lost at sea.
On September 1,1985, 73 years after the Titanic sank, Scientist from Woods Hole Deep Submergence Lab (DSL) let by Dr. Robert Ballard found the ship via sonar. On July 13, 1986 Ballard & his crew went down in the manned submersible ALVIN (DSV-2) and got the first glimpse of the famed ship.
FOR TITANIC BUFFS & JOURNALISTS WATCH NOW:
The story of Fran’s Titanic voyage in her Tedx Talk
Actual Footage from my voyage to the Titanic:
Fran Capo’s Titanic Adventure with host Barry Mitchell
More Footage: Worlds Fastest Talking Woman breaks another world record at the Titanic!
OWN YOUR OWN DVD OF AUTHENTIC TITANIC FOOTAGE:
WANT THE NITTY GRITTY DETAILS? READ FRAN’S DAILY JOURNAL OF THE VOYAGE:
(EXCERPT FROM CAPO UPDATE JULY 2005)
This expedition came about when Brian Day O’Conner (Former Supreme court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s son) saw that I had done a book signing at the top of Kilimanjaro and decided to email me out of the blue and tell me about his upcoming journey to the Titanic. I asked, “Hey, any room for another person?” After 10 months of strategic planning, the journey began. Never be afraid to ask for what you want in life, you may just get it!
Here is what transpired in journal form on my Titanic World Record Expedition courtesy of Deep Ocean Expeditions and my sponsors.
July 6th, 2005: I arrived in St. John, New Foundland. I checked into the Fairmount hotel and saw that someone was in my room. Turns out I had a roommate that I didn’t know about. Luckily it was a woman, a German journalist, Bridgette Saar, who belonged to the Swiss Titanic Association and was taking photos of the expedition. She was a wealth of knowledge about the Titanic and to generously offered take photos of me on the ship and for my sponsors. We hit it off great. We made great room mates as we were both, neat, adventurous and had our perspective guys to talk about.
That night we had dinner with one of the key members of Deep Ocean Expedition at the Fairmount Hotel. That member, who was in charge of orientation, was none other than Don Walsh. (See photo above) Don (Staff/Oceanographer) is one of only two men in the entire world to dive to the deepest spot in the ocean, the Marianes Trench (35,800 feet – 14 miles deep). He was in the Navy at the time and dove down in 1960 in a bathysphere called the Triest. The bathysphere was virtually untested since there was no way to know how deep the bottom of the ocean really was and how it would hold up. He tells the story as if it were another routine day at the office. His photo appeared on the cover of Life Magazine.
July 7th 2005:
Got up early. I did two TV shows and one print interview that “Ripley’s Believe it or Not (one of my sponsors) set up. Talked about my other major sponsors as well, (Authorhouse and Goldenpalace.com) my world record book signing and the prayer that I would down there. “Canada Now”, (the number one morning show), says they also want to do a follow up interview when I return from my voyage.
James Cameron and film crew, who had been filming for the past few weeks, took a break from filming and got off the ship today, so we could do our voyage. Since he will resume filming once we are done, he left his equipment on board. One lab (remember the Kelydish is a scientific vessel that houses the submersibles that will take us down) is filled to the brim with his film equipment. Cables for his film shoot are seen all around the ship, fiber optics are sitting in spools, lines and antenna are in stairwells etc. His presence is known and makes it that more exciting.
His film crew and the crew of the Kelydish are preparing for a live simulcast from the Turkish bath which is seven levels down in the Titanic. That part of the Titanic has been undisturbed all this time (90 years at the time of my trip in 2005)) These are first time photos, being done for the Discovery Channel. It will be a live simulcast if all goes well on July 24th, which is only a few days after we return. You will see the same crew in Cameron’s film that we as civilian passengers were dealing with on a daily basis and most likely will be in many of our photos.
I hung out with Kelvin. He’s the guy who is laying down fiber optics for the Cameron’s simulcast.
Since Cameron’s crew were late getting off the ship we were treated to a tour of St. Johns, compliments of him. He knows how to keep the natives happy.
At 5 p.m. we boarded the ship. The Russian crew greeted us with smiles. I think they are checking us out.
Belinda Sawyer, (scientist/explorer) or better known as the woman who was my contact since day one, had to fly out to New Zealand for a medical emergency. Her boyfriend and fellow operations manager, Rob McCallum, was now in charge. (Belinda got tested and was later given a clean bill of health – YEAH).
As in the hotel, Brigette and I shared a cabin, number 6547. Our cabin had bunk beds, a desk and a common bathroom that we shared with the cabin next door.
The next cabin contained, Reda (then 65- who has now passed RIP) and her granddaughter Melody (11) who carried a Scooby Doo doll and a camera around where ever she went. She’d take pictures of people sleeping, eating…etc. No one was safe with her Papparazzi style.
Reda and Melody, had been invited by Ralph White, expert staff and member of the famed Explorers Club. Ralph (who passed a few short years after this voyage – R.I.P) was the photographer who was not only with Bob Ballard when he found the Titanic, but helped him to decide to look for it. Ralph is the Titanic guru on board. He actually has logged more hours on the Titanic than Captain Smith himself! Ralph (and Don) know all the inside scoop about the Titanic, it’s litigation, salvage laws, etc. During the day’s as we headed out to the spot where the Titanic sank, Ralph and Don would give daily lectures.
Ralph related some interesting first hand facts throughout the course of the trip, for example:
1) Even though all the books say that when the iceberg hit the Titanic the order was given to reverse the engines, all dials found on the wreck were in the “slow ahead” position instead.
2) The cherub at the bottom of the staircase was on a rotating base and had a blinking light. It is believed that first class passengers knew dinner was served by the blinking light, not by the bugle call, which was reserved for third class passengers.
3) Ralph brought the technology of lighting to the Kelydish and to the movie the Titanic. He was a cameraman by trade. He designed, the huge chandelier lighting system (called Medusa) that lit up the wreck site during the movie, “The Titanic”. The Medusa was the first light the fish down there ever saw.
4) When Ralph was with Ballard, Ballard did not release the coordinates of the Titanic (it was found with Sonar, not submersibles.) Ralph read the coordinates upside down on a table, memorized it, and was later able to lead others to it. A fact he mentions in the movie, “Titanica”.
LIFE ON THE KELYDISH:
When we weren’t listening to lectures we’d hang out in our rooms. The four of us, yes, the four women, had to share a common bathroom. Now remember the Kelydish is NOT a cruise ship…its a working research ship with 17 labs on board and a ton of Russian scientists. Another words, not a luxury liner.
Anyway, we won the record for most times clogging up the bathroom out of all of the 14 passengers. We only put the three P’s in the bowl, “poo, pee and paper” – but somehow it kept clogging. Not one of our finer moments.
The shower is a just sprout in the bathroom, no doors, no nothing. You just pull a shower curtain around it, to separate it from the toilet, so basically the entire floor gets wet. Call me Einstein, but I knew this bathroom things was going to be a running issue on this trip, and not just on the ship, but in the sub as well. But I’ll get to that later.
For communications, like what the weather is, or when breakfast is, or anything of importance or interest there was a very basic intercom system in each of the cabins – and it was LOUD! And would come on without warning, and sometimes it wasn’t even addressed to us but just the crew members announcements – In Russian.
The first time I heard it (okay the first 20 times I heard it) it startled me and I jumped. All of a sudden you’re in a deep sleep or maybe just sitting in your room listening to the ocean waves and BAM! A loud Russian man’s voice would leap out at you from behind. It was as if someone snuck up on you and yelled, “FIRE!” Then laughed, ‘only kidding.” Luckily I brought a Russian dictionary, compliments my friend, Dale and I could make out some words so I knew they weren’t saying anything about us. But even I needed an interpretuer even when they spoke in English. (Mine you they said the same thing about my New York accent.)
In the cabin there was a welcome sheet. It said in part:
“The RV Akademik Mstislav Keldysh was designed and built as the largest working research vessel in the world for use with the Deep Water Submersibles, Mir 1 and 2. It is by special arrangement that we are able to use this vessel for deep diving expeditions.”
Even though it was not a cruise ship the Kelydish did have the following rooms:
-Dining room – deck 4
-Swimming pool (Okay, more like a large bath filled with sea water)
-Gymnasium & Sauna
-Bridge/radio room – deck 8.
-(A bar, lecture room, arts & crafts room, library and party room which btw was all the same room- talk about economizing!)
The MIR deck (know as the zodiac) deck was always bustling with crew activity. We were allowed on it, but had to keep out of way of working crew. The crew slept in shifts and out of 90 people, 50 were always working.
Those were the accessible areas.
DO NOT ENTER!
We were told to keep away from the engine rooms and Mir operations room, but could arrange a tour if we wanted.
Communicating with the outside world:
We were too far out to sea, so our cell phones (which are nothing like today’s) did not work.
Email messages normally had to be given on a computer memory stick or written out, and there was no guarantee it would go through. Although one nice perk was that Cameron had paid $100,000 to have Internet service for the month while he was filming. But even with that…I heard that the email I sent to home never reached there, you…so much for big bucks.
Medical issues at sea:
There was a doctor on board, just in case we got sea sick or needed an appendectomy. Other little things to note…we couldn’t drink from the tap because the water wasn’t’ safe. And the ship has 220 volt, so I needed an adapter converter.
How we spent the time at sea:
We received a daily program on board that was left in our outside door pockets. It would tell us all the things that were happening for the day, most which focused around food. Sample sheet: Breakfast, lecture, lunch, lecture, tea & goodies, lecture, dinner, lecture then movie.
Time for events were given in Military time:
Example of events:
Afternoon tea. Which by the way was a lavish spread prepared by Austrian and Russian cooks. It was their first time working together, but they managed very nicely.
Kelydish departs port of St. Johns for Titanic wreck site.
380 miles Southeast of Newfoundland.
Site of Titanic wreck:
41 , 44.0 N 49 degrees, 46.0 West
12, 465 feet/3,790 meters depth.
It will take us approximately, depending on weather, 38 hours to reach the wreck site.
Dinner served, four course meal. The art of dining!
Every night there was a movie.
Getting used to sea legs:
The seas were calm where we were, even though two hurricanes were brewing on both sides of us and the land was getting pelted. I knew my mom was worrying, if we were at sea in those hurricanes but I had no way of reaching her. I’m sure she said a thousand novenas.
Friday, July 8th 2005
Enroute to wreck site in North Atlantic
Introduction of MIR Program by the “father of the program” and man who designed the submersibles. Dr. Anatoly Sagalevich.
Anatoly is in all James Cameron’s movies.
He is the one you see at the beginning of the movie Titanic when they open the safe and the papers fall out…he says, “No diamonds!”
He is also the one piloting the Mir in all of Cameron’s movies.
He tells us the Mirs are the only submersibles that can go to any depth in the ocean and stay for 24 hours. (The Alvin can go but only stay for 3-4 hours.)
He explains these are submersibles, not submarines.
- The Mir could cover 98% of the ocean floor.
- It would cost 50-60 million dollars to build another submersible to get to that other inaccessible 2% of the ocean.
- Man however has only explored to date 2% of the ocean floor – but takes samplings.
- Each Mir cost about 1 million dollars. If built today it would cost $50 million.
- The Mir’s have also gone to the hydrothermal vents. 50 new species were discovered upon first look. Now they have found close to 1000 new animals.
10:45 a.m. Mir Orientation visit.
The first chance for me to actually go inside the Mir 1 submersible to familiarize myself and see just how small it really is. The actual sub is just 25 feet long.
But inside it is only 7 feet, yes you read that right, and that is for 3 people, two passengers and the pilot! The seats are shaped in a U fashion and when you all sit, your knees touch. There are two side seats and one center seat for the pilot with the piloting console directly in front of him.
It’s very cozy and by the way, no bathroom! If you have to go you’d have to stand on the seat and squat with some kind of shower curtain contraption wrapped around your waist as you maneuver the toilet packet.
The toilet packet fits up against your body, and when you pee, it turns into gel. It’s the same thing they use on small airplanes. (Meanwhile you’re doing this as the other two in the submersible are right there watching. I figured I’d wear a depends instead, or just not drink for 12 hours before! This is when the male advantage comes in.
Okay enough bathroom talk.
There are three windows in the submersible. One center one which is about 12 inches wide and two side windows, one for each passenger, which is about six inches wide. The Plexiglas is 18 inches thick. Anatoly was very specific and said with a very heavy stern accent, “Nothing is to touch the glass, no fingernails, no camera lens, nothing, because it can easily scratch the windows and is hard and expensive to replace.
I was amazed at the tons of buttons and gadgets all around inside, every single one with a purpose that Anatoly knows. (I was hoping there was a manual or something in case he accidently conked out, that would help us know how to pilot it.
Pure oxygen is pumped into the submersible. There is a co2 filter which takes the carbon dioxide out of the air and will be changed during the dive if needed. This is essential because in a small space air can be sucked up quickly.
After the Mir orientation we were briefed on our dive. It was at that point that I was told I would be the first diver in the first Mir of this expedition. (I love going first, it is the most adventurous, but it also holds the most risk).
I found out my dive partner was not going to be Brian Day O’Connor (the one who got me into this in the first place) but instead through the draw of a straw, a Japanese woman named Misaki (name changed to protect myself) who wanted to become famous and set a world record for being the “#1 Japanese women to visit the Titanic.”
She was very outspoken and extremely aggressive. She went around repeating, “Me number one Japanese to go down. Me number one Japanese to go down. I be number one. I want to be very famous.”
It became the running joke on the ship. And yes, she took pictures of EVERYTHING…I mean everything…of all our meals, of the crew people, of menus, and pictures of pictures. If we waited on line for food, she’d cut the line and say, me eat first…me number one! At one point later in the trip, the 12 civilian passengers were invited to Rob’s office two by two, to buy T-shirts, and some limited souveneirs. There was very limited selection, remember this was not a gift shop. She literally grabbed them out of people’s hands and said, “Me need that shirt. Me take now.” We all debated about making her the ship’s anchor.
The rest of the afternoon we spent going to lectures by Don Walsh and Ralph White. Another lecturer, Peter Batson (deep sea biologist) also gave lectures. He showed us photographs not only of a giant squid (dead of course since no one has seen a live one) but of a newly found, Collosal squid which is estimated can grow to between 30-50 feet. He is one of the few people to ever see a dead one…we were able to see the photos…something that has not been released to the public yet.)
1700 – MANDATORY LIFE BOAT DRILL
Next on our schedule was safety instructions and an abandon ship drill – aka, get to the lifeboats as quickly as possible without panic.
We had to wait in our room as if we had no clue this was coming. When we heard seven short blasts and one long emergency alarm sounded, then we had to get our life jackets and go to the nearest life boat.
Unlike what the passengers of the Titanic had, these lifeboats were fully enclosed, complete with food rations, water, and protection from the elements. Each lifeboat could hold up to 66 people. Couldn’t help but think how these drills came about because of disaster of Titanic – when there weren’t enough life boats for all the passengers and the panicked that ensued. If there were enough boats, the Titanic sank slow enough that all the people aboard could have been saved, and thus I would not be going in a few days to visit it at the bottom of the ocean. Felt a little strange.
Saturday, July 9th, 2005 – Arrival at RMS Titanic wreck site. Note: RMS = (Royal Mail Service)
The Mir navigation team places four navigational transponders around the wreck site.
While they are setting things up for our dive, we all watch “Ghosts of the Abyss”, a 2001 James Cameron movie. I thought, ”Oh my God tomorrow I will be doing exactly what I am watching in this film.” The wrecked ship is below us now. I wanted to engrave in my mind the images of this movie. I wanted to keep the overlay scenes that compared the wreck as it is now, to what it was when it was in it’s heyday so I could realize what I was looking at decayed the bottom of the ocean. I looked how the wreck staircase looked so when I look at the wreck, I could envision how it was before the wreck.” I needed that orientation, otherwise it would like a heap of metal.
After the movies, we mingle with the other passengers. One passenger, Boris, a flamboyant Russian car dealer (actually the biggest in Moscow) says he is staying in James Cameron’s cabin. He shows us a picture in his camera with James Cameron’s name on the desk.
Spent the day attending more lectures. I realize everyone of passengers around me, outside of Bridgette, and two other passengers, are millionaires many times over..this $35,000 trip is pocket change to them. Yet the common bond is we all love adventure and are about to be come part of a very small unique club – those who visited the actual wrecksite of Titanic. Only 180 people in the world have seen it, and that includes all the scientists, filmmakers etc. We’re told that more people have gone to outer space than have visited the Titanic.
A SCIENCE PROJECT WITH STYROFOAM CUPS.
A scientist friend of mine, Vivian Maltese, told me if I get a chance paint on a styroform cup, do it. So when a bunch of styrofoam cups were brought out along with markers I had a field day. I wanted to make one for all my corporate and individual sponsors. I wrote “From the Top of the World (Kilimanjaro) to the Depths of the Sea.” After our artist talents were put on the cups, they were put in a mesh bag and then placed in sliding draw baskets which are outside the Mir.
These regular size coffee cups will be compressed down, (all the air taken out) to the size of a thimble by the 6 tons of pressure in the ocean at that depth. Instant, unique souvenirs that can only be produced in the ocean depths.
PREPARATION FOR THE DIVE:
After our art class, we were given a sheet of instructions for diving.
One thing stressed to us is NOT to wear any alcohol or Vaseline based makeup, because there is pure oxygen pumped into subs that stuff can easily ignite.
Still I debate since I know this film footage will be shown on TV whether I can sneak a little color on. Then Ralph White tells a story about one guy whose face blew up because he wore lip balm…my debate and vanity is ended.
MY LAST MEAL:
Lunch is my last big meal. I will not eat again till after my dive tomorrow. Going number 1 (and we’re not talking the Japanese women here) is hard enough, but #2 would be horrible. I’m told no one ever did do #2 in the sub, and I certainly don’t want to set a new world record by being the first. Nope, I don’t want to be the one with the stinky diaper.
We are also reminded not to eat gassy or greasy foods. It would be bad enough getting a stomach ache down there, but the last thing you want is excessive flatulence. First you can’t blame it on anyone, but second…its not like you can open a window down there. And that is not how I want to go out in life, “Fast Talker blows up ship with her butt!”
I figure it’s safer not to eat…besides, better for my waistline, and other parts south.
PREPARATION THE DAY BEFORE THE DIVE
Lydia, the oldest Russian woman on the ship, who is about 4 feet high, is in charge of issuing us our NOMEX suits to wear during our dives. They are supposedly fireproof, but honestly if a fire breaks out in the submersible, I doubt this will save us.
Lydia looks me over, measures me through her one good eye, winks and hands me a suit. I try it on, it fits tight but I realize that I need a bigger one since I will have to wear layers of clothes for the dive to stay warm. I ask for bigger suit. Well I don’t ask since I can’t speak Russian, I basically motion that my butt can’t bend. She laughs, strips me down and issues me another suit.
At midnight I start limiting my water consumption.
I check to make sure my bags are packed for the next day’s dive. I have two full bags.
CHECKLIST FOR MY DIVE:
I had an extensive list of things to bring down into the submersible to the Titanic. Belinda told me I could bring down whatever I need as long as I kept it on my side of the sub. This is the first time I’m glad I’m short, in a seven foot sub, every inch counts.
1- AA books – 6 (For booksigning)
2- Ripley’s books-6
3- Golden Palace t-shirt (sponsor)
4- Authorhouse t- shirt (sponsor)
5- Ripley’s t shirt (sponsor)
6- Two rolls of 1912 pennies (Sailors tradition/gifts)
7- A roll of 1912 of Nickels
8- Covers of books that where at top of Kilimanjaro
9- Prayer to say as ordained minister by wrecksite
10- Replica Necklace -Heart of the ocean
11- Two still cameras (one as backup)
12- 1 video camera
13- 1 back up digital camera
14- extra batteries
16- extra rolls of film (Cell phones did not take pictures then)
17- 50 Goldenpalace.com keychains (Gifts later)
18- Arrange with Nik Halik, a fellow passenger I befriended and hung around with the whole time, to take pictures and video of me.
THE NIGHT BEFORE:
Went to sleep early but feeling very excited but anxious. Feel as if I’m on a roller coaster ride going up and I know soon I will peak at the hill and come zooming down. Love the feeling, but at the same time you have that white knuckled grip.
One fact that I remember from lecture, the pressure of the sub is six tons of pressure on each square inch of the sub…thus why the windows are so small. Anyway, if a pinhole pierced the sub somehow, you’d be literally sliced in half as the lazer beam of water would jet in with all that pressure. Not really worried about this fact though…more worried about having to pee in the submersible.
JULY 10th, 2005-
DAY OF MY TITANIC DIVE
(EXACTLY ONE YEAR LATER!)
I realize through a pure chance of fate that I am diving on July 10th…exactly one year from the day I submitted Kilimanjaro and did my book signing. I submitted the mountain at 10 AM according to my certificate…and now my dive time here is 9 Am. Estimated time to hit the water…10 AM.
From the top of the world to the depths of the sea, is almost happening at the same exact time! Fate, whose to say! But does make a cool fact.
Up, can’t sleep.
Go to breakfast just to hang with others.
Triple check my bags.
Try to go to bathroom one more time.
Nik Halik records a video of me right before I go down to capture my emotions. (This is on my Titanic Voyage CD, and a clip of it is on the above link on Youtube.)
Rob comes and gets us. Feels imminent…we aquanauts are ready for our mission.
Rob takes us into lab.
The entire Mir crew is there.
They cheer us.
Lydia presents a logbook to us and we sign in. It is now official. We are now a part of history and entered into the scientific log books.
The steel garage like housing for the Mir’s are lifted, exposing the Mir’s to daylight.
Their photographer snaps a picture of us. Anatoly goes in first, then Misaki. We are one level down from the other passengers. They are all gathered around a rail above us with their cameras taking pictures. Misaki is being nudged by crew to go inside Mir 1, Instead she is standing around with her hands in the air…”Me #1 Japanese to go down. Me number one Japanese!” Anatoly is pulling her legs and she keeps raising her hands, and repeating her mantra. Finally the crew nudges her in.
Then I climb up the ladder. Nik yells from above, “Fran do you plan on talking for the whole 12 hours?” I yell back, “I can’t promise anything!” But I know enough not to disturb the pilot when he is navigating…I don’t want to be responsible for him hitting into the Titanic, because I drove him crazy. I can see the headlines now…”Pilot crashes into wreck to escape Fast Talker.”
We made quite a trio. Anatoly our Russian pilot, Misaki boisterous Japanese woman, and a fast talking New Yorker. It was like the United Nations was going down. It is going to be an interesting 12 hours.
At the top near the hatch, a crew member greets us with a yellow tool box. We’re instructed to take off our shoes and hand it to him, because the rubber soles of our shoes could ignite a spark in the submersible. We are now just in thick warm socks, that they gave us.
Inside the submersible there are extra booties, and another suit that we can wear as the temperature drops, as we go down into the freezing waters.
After we are in, our bags are handed inside to us. Anatoly’s wife comments in a heavy Russian accent, “Figures, two women…four bags!” Mine are filled with books etc. Japanese women bag has four cameras – not to stereotype, but hey, facts are facts.
Once we are inside, Anatoly presses some switches. The hatch is closed and locked. It sounded like the echo in prison movies when the prison doors slam shut. This is it, the point of no return.
Now, since I was first, I had never seen a Mir launch so I had no idea what was happening at this point. Since you feel little movement inside, I simply thought the crane lifted us and dropped us in the water and we were going down…but no, turns out it’s much more complicated than that.
It wasn’t until the next day when I watched another Mir Launch that I saw all that transpired.
What actually happens is two small boats, one called the Koresh, and the other a rubber raft- the Zodiac, are lowered by crane into the water. They wait for the eight ton Mir to be hooked and lifted into the water.
Once in the water, this handsome Russian guy in a frog suit, known simply as “The Cowboy” leaps from the rubber raft onto the Mir. He hooks a rope to the Mir and throws it to the Koresh. The Koresh then pulls the Mir away from the Kelydish while the cowboy is standing on top, riding it.
Once the Mir is far enough away from the ship, the cowboy unhooks the Mir, and leaps into the rubber boat. Both the Koresh and the rubber boat pull away.
I could feel none of this by the way. There is absolutely no sensation inside of being pulled, tugged, ridden…nada. We just see that we are bouncing in the water.
“Okay, Now we go down.” Says Anatoly. All the time I already thought we were.
We spiral down at a rate of 90 feet per minute. It was at this point that I realized I might have some competition in the talking department. Even though we were warned NOT to talk to the pilot the first half hour of our trip so he could concentrate, Miss #1 Japanese started in. “Can I take picture now? How fast are we going? Will you turn on the lights? Are we going to see the bow first? You know I number one Japanese to go down.” I wanted to smack her. Anatoly looked at me incredulously. I shrugged. No way in hell was I going to get the pilot mad, besides she was doing a good job herself.
I could tell we were in for a long journey.
After 800 feet it was total darkness, all you heard were the sounds of the submarine. Occasionally some Russian commands came over the radio. There were plot points on a graph that represented the bow and stern of the ship. There was another moving point that represented us.
A compass told us that we were slowly spiraling down, although you didn’t feel any of it.
At one point in the total darkness of the water Anatoly turned on the lights. I saw this bizarre translucent donut shaped creature come up to the window. It was about an inch in diameter. As I pressed my face closer to the window (but careful not to touch it) the creature opened up and red tentacles speared out, making the creature about seven inches wide. I felt I was in a Star Trek episode, better yet, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. It was another world within our world.
Anatoly was plotting the points and making notations in his log book. He was making sure we were on course for coming into the bow of the ship. The transponders were helping with location by pinging signals to the submersible. He checked our oxygen levels and smile, all good. Well that’s reassuring.
I still found it hard to believe I was in a submersible. It seems like a dream.
The decent took three and a half hours. The walls on the inside of the submersible had condensation. A small puddle of water formed at the base of each window. For a second I thought the Mir was leaking, and Anatoly smiled and said, “No worries, condensation.”
Finally Anatoly announced we were close to the Titanic. He said we came in near the stern but wanted us to see the bow first so he maneuvered around. We looked out the window…albino starfish with long skinny legs were sprawled along the ocean floor.
Then all of a sudden out of the darkness we saw it. The bow of the ship. Just like in the movies. It was surreal. Here I was less than 15 feet from the bow of the famed Titanic with all it’s rusticles, and yet all I could think was, “Wow, wow, wow…this was the ship of dreams.”
A ship that the first class passengers paid an equivalent of $52,000 to ride on, and now here it lays, the death bed of all those victims of man’s stupidity- the stupidity of pushing a ship too hard, of not having enough lifeboats, of not seeing a iceberg in time. This is the famed Titanic.”
I laid on my stomach on my bench so I could get close to the window. I snapped pictures. It was hard to put the realities together, those of the passengers, visions seen in movies, and what my real eyes were seeing. It was an immense feeling.
The trance was broken when Misaki began her photo session. “I cannot see, I need to get closer. Too difficult.”
Anatoly said, “Nothing’s too difficult.” Immediately I liked him.
Misaki repeats, “Too difficult to see. I need to get closer.” Then she leans over the console, onto the controls and starts snapping pictures through Anatoly’s pilot window, pushing him out of the way. I wanted to smack her, but we had another 9 hours with her. Anatoly and I exchanged glances. He shrugs, I roll my eyes.
I try to ignore her and looked out my window. Then I saw Mir 2 from the distance. The lights from the Mir cast an eerie glow on the bow. Made for great film footage.
She kept complaining, “I only 80% happy, I cannot see.” I say how the hell are you only 80% happy? Plus this is not something you say to the inventor of the sub. I could see Mir 2 was waiting patiently for it’s turn to take pictures at the bow. For the next 45 minutes, Misaki kept saying, “I need more pictures.” Anatoly said, ‘You took 1000 pictures of the bow, we need to move on.”
She said, “I have idea, we back up, take picture of whole ship.”
Anatoly said, ‘Ship to big.”
She says, “Back up, back up.”
He says, “I have better idea, next time I put you outside submarine.” She nods, “Yes.” I’m thinking do you not realize he wants to kill you?”
Finally Anatoly said, “We can stay here, whole dive by bow…if you like.”
I piped up, “No, I would like to see another part of the ship. She said, “Okay, but then we come back.”
I asked, “Misaki are you married?” She said, “No, never had a date!” Wow, what a surprise!
We glided over the ship. Rusticles are everywhere outside the ship, very few inside I’m told. Rusticles are the bi-products of bacteria that eat iron. It is estimated it eats 1000 – 2000 pounds per day of iron. When you see the bacteria hanging down from the anchor it is a river of rust in liquid form.
We saw the downed funnel #1, it fell on top of the quarters and crushed it. (It contradicts Ballard’s claim that the Mir’s damaged the quarters by landing on it…the crushed quarters are the identical outline of the funnel).
We silently (except for the cry of “Can I take more pictures”), glided over the grand staircase.
You could see a chandelier hanging down from the electrical wires. It was more of an open hole, as the first thing to be eaten by sea worms are wood. All the exposed wood has been gone for decades. Also all human bones in this calcium deficient environment are long gone.
It was later at this spot when we circled back around that I did the prayer in my capacity as a new ordained minister on film down by the wrecksite. A non-denominational prayer that my marine friend, Ted Issaccson, arranged for me to get from a Marine Minister.
But back to the present, Misaki said, “I want to see stain glass windows down inside.”
Now the Mir’s are not meant to go inside the Titanic. For that task, small remote operated bots do that. But she insists. “I want to go inside”.
Anatoly says, ” Okay, we go down inside and never come back up.”
She says, “Okay”.
I say, “Misaki, he’s kidding with you.”
Then I realized how funny is this? A New Yorker interpreting a Russian joke for a Japanese woman.
We continued to glide over the ship. We see the promenade deck, Captain Smith’s quarters where you could see the bathtub and the plumbing pipes.
We see the engines, the Marconi room where the men desperately tried to get help from another ship when they were sinking. We see Deck A and a crushed Deck B, tons of windows covered with rusticles. closed windows, open windows, windows you could see through inside and get a glimpse of the ship.
At one point I stopped and did my book signing.
It was interesting trying to maneuver getting 12 books out of a bag, changing sponsor T-shirts, and trying to get pictures of me in the forefront with the Titanic in the background, which didn’t work well. The problem was the windows are too small, if you use a flash, you only get the inside of sub and the window is blurred. If you don’t use a flash you get the outside, but can’t see the person near the window. I did my best with video, and propping up shirts by the window. This was my one chance so I needed to try everything I could.
I signed books to Misaki, Anatoly, for Ripley’s, Authorhouse and Golden Palace.
I showed the 1912 pennies and nickels I brought down, the 50 Golden Palace keychains, and the “heart of the ocean” pendant replica from the movie Titanic that my mom bought me.All books signed were recorded on video.
Anatoly said, “Thank you very nice book, can’t believe I’m with fastest talking woman.” At one point to shut Misaki up he said, “Talk more, talk faster.” Then he looked at me and said, “but she can’t talk faster than you. I’m in trouble.”
We stayed by the site for five hours. Some images were so ghostly, especially when the other Mir would light it up. At one point we were dangerously close to the other Mir…why? Because Misaki was in the window blocking Anatoly’s view and he couldn’t pilot the Mir. He had to push her out of the way and say…”Now you cause danger, sit back.” She pouted.
It took a while to get to the stern, since when the ship broke they landed apart.
Anatoly offered us a bagged lunch, but we turned it down…the old bathroom worry again. Ate chocolate though…heard it is a good butt plug.
When we got to the stern all we saw was a tangled mess. It was hard to distinguish things. But we did see the port propeller embedded in the sand.
Then we went over the debris field. We saw bottles, third class soup cups, a wash basin, another cup with the words “White Star” on them.
Seeing personal items like this had a huge impact on me. It was not just a hunk of steel, it was the small everyday items that got me.
There was also a pirate cage. A cage left by someone stealing artifacts…but who?
Finally we circled around to the front of the Titanic again. Then I said the prayer over the staircase. I figured this is where most of the souls on the ship passed, it would be a good place to do it. It was when I said the prayer, that the hugeness of this all hit me. As I said the prayer images of the passengers that night flashed through my head. Everyone, even Misaki was quiet then and to her credit, she did video tape me doing the prayer.
Then Anatoly announced it was time to go up. Misaki asked again, “Can you back up so we can take picture of whole ship?”
Anatoly looked at me. We couldn’t believe she asked that.
He said, “No one has ever seen whole ship down here at one time, too big, not enough light.”:
She insisted, “Yes, yes you back up I use my flash.”
Man if I didn’t have to spend another four hours with her going up, I would have given her a fast-talking chewing out. But I held my tongue, and figured…”Calm down Capo…just more material for my comedy act.”
Anatoly must have wanted to get out badly since he got us back to the surface in record time.
On the way up he mentioned that next year he was going to the North Pole with the Mir and an ice breaker ship. “It’s never been done before and unexplored region” Wow is all I could think, “I am with true explorers of the world… those who discover what other people later come and look at as tourist attractions. I asked him if he was worried about finding the hole in the ice to come out of…he said, “I find the hole, no worries.” I love that attitude.
The ride up I was thinking…this has got to be my greatest adventure. I was two and a half miles down in the North Atlantic ocean, a place few have gone. I did the first ever prayer down there. I did a book signing, I saw creatures that I didn’t even know existed and I visited one of the most talked about ships of all time, and I didn’t have to go to the bathroom!
It was truly awesome.
At the surface we bounced around for a while. It was cold there at the top, colder than I had been all throughout the dive. Misaki was nauseated and had a bag ready just in case. Pilot whales were attracted by our sonar, and were all around the Mir. I couldn’t see them but am told later.
For now I just focus on a fixed point. I debate whether to snap a picture of Misaki with the vomit bag, good black mail. Plus it’s the only time she shut up. I decide, okay, one quick shot. (Yes, it’s in my scrap book.)
We came up at 9 p.m. The Koresh towed us back to the ship and then the crane lifted us on board. The hatch opened and my ears popped.
I climbed out and was greeted by the entire crew and passengers cheering. And guess what, Fran is #1 out of sub. We all laughed. I was handed my shoes back and climbed down the ladder.
Bridgette & Nik took videos. The photographer snapped pictures, and we were offered a glass of champagne. When I went back to my room on my bed was a certificate and a present of two champagne glasses with “White Star” on it.
Gifts, memories, laughs, and an experience of a lifetime.
It was the ultimate day!
The rest of the trip was spent taking photos, playing ping-pong, volleyball and giving the Russians the shirts. They were thrilled. They actually cheered. These people cannot afford T-shirts so to them it was a special treat.
Thanks so much to my major sponsors, GoldenPalace, Authorhouse and Ripley’s. And thanks to all my friends and family who also sponsored me and for believing in me and helping me make history. WE DID it! Another Capo first!
Certificates were mailed out to all the sponsors with a 1912 penny, and skrunken cup that was down by the wreck site!
Our voyage down to the Titanic in July of 2005, happened to be the last civilian voyage ever done. The Russian ship & the MIR submersibles no longer allow adventurers to go down there. There was brief talk at one point of charging people $65,000 to go down on the 100th anniversary but that never came to fruition with Blue Ocean Expedition.
Fourteen years later, on Aug. 2019 the wreckage of the Titanic is visited for the first time during a series of five dives completed by an exploration team from Triton Submarines. They report that the ship is being swallowed up by the ocean floor and the rusticles, the ravaged metal eating bacteria.
As of January 21, 2020 the Titanic will be protected under and international agreement between the US and UK.
NEW VOYAGE? There is talk of a scheduled dive to the Titanic in the Summer of 2021 by a company called, OceanGate (Titan). The cost per passenger aboard this 5 seater submersible is $100,000 as listed on their website. I have not been able to confirm if it is happening, but it is said to meet with the UNESCO guidelines for underwater preservation of heritage sites.