Some of the descendants of those who were on the Titanic that fateful night in 1912 are asking the public, no matter how rich, not to turn the final resting places of their family members into a site for adventure vacations.
The shipwreck has been romanticized ever since it vanished into the icy waters off the coast of Newfoundland after hitting an iceberg on April 14, 1912. Countless books, documentaries, and feature films—including a particularly popular one in 1997—have kept the memory of the wreck alive in the minds of the public. But it’s everyday people—descendants of those who escaped the disaster and those who did not—who live with the effects of the wreck to this day.
The Daily Beast spoke to several people who had family on the RMS Titanic when it went down over 100 years ago about what they thought about the submersible going missing while poking around the wreck. Their views on the matter were clear: Don’t go traipsing around a hallowed burial site for fun.
“I think it’s disgusting, quite honestly,” 69-year-old John Locascio, whose two uncles perished after boarding the Titanic in 1912, told The Daily Beast. “I would want it to stop, to be perfectly honest. There’s no sense of it. You’re going down to see a grave. Would you want to dig up your uncles or aunts to see the box? That’s basically what I compare it to. There’s no reason for it.”
“My great-great-grandfather’s body was found floating with a locket around his neck that the family still has, but my great-great-grandmother’s body was never found,” Gladstone told The Daily Beast. “So, her body lays down there today—the site is a graveyard for my great-great-grandmother and so many others. I’m a little bit uncomfortable with people making money over diving down and spending what I understand to be a quarter of a million dollars to go down in these submersibles—because it is a graveyard and it should be treated as such.”
You can read more of the incredible stories of the survivors and what the wreck site means to them over on the Daily Beast.
This subject is near and dear to my heart. As a young news intern at Detroit’s public radio station, I covered the mass held at the Mariners’ Church for the dead of the Edmund Fitzgerald, an ore freighter that sank in Lake Superior in 1975. It affected me deeply to see that, even in 2011, there were tears and heartbreak over the loss of the crew members.
In 1995, a diving crew raised the bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald, causing a lot of controversy and heartbreak among the families of the 29 victims. To them, it was like someone might as well be pawing through their relatives’ graves. It didn’t help that this dive also caught video of a body preserved by the cold, airless depths of the lake.
As you can imagine the families were outraged. This led to a tightening of restrictions around diving in wrecks and the declaration of the Edmund Fitzgerald as a graveyard banning all but scientific dives. Yet, it’s still possible to visit wrecked ships on the bottom of the Great Lakes, some with preserved bodies still bobbing around in the dark cold water. On the SS Kamloop, which sank off the coast of Isle Royale in Lake Superior in 1977, a preserved body nicknamed “Old Whitey” is scaring the living daylights out of curious looky loos to this day.
Most of us won’t ever have the option to burn $250,000 on a trip 12,000 feet below the ocean. But if you ever do find yourself so blessed, at least think twice on if you should do it. And definitely don’t do it in a submersible controlled by a game controller.
As of this writing, the submersible has still not been found.