Away Teams & Field Reports

Alan Stern's Titanic Away Team Journal: Was That a Dream?

By Keith Cowing
Alan Stern
July 26, 2022
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Alan Stern's Titanic Away Team Journal: Was That a Dream?
Alan Stern Diving To The Titanic
Alan Stern

Yesterday our mother ship ship Horizon Arctic finished the journey to carry us and our OceanGate Expeditions submersible Titan along the Grand Banks to port in St. John’s Newfoundland after exploring the RMS Titanic.

As the ship pulled into port my fellow Titanic explorers watched from railings above the ship’s bridge. I said to one of my colleagues, Dylan Taylor, “Did we really just explore the Titanic? It feels like a dream.” He instantly replied, “Funny, I feel exactly the same way.”

As I process my memories and experiences of the past week, it really does seem unreal that we visited the Titanic, sometimes being as close as just a foot or so from the ship, some 3.9 kilometers (2.4 miles) below the ocean surface. Yet we really were there. The submersible trip lasted 11.3 hours, some 9.3 of which were below water, with 4.2 hours at the Titanic’s ocean bottom resting place.

The experience itself was so multi-layered! From an archaeological expedition to a scientific one, from high emotions about the exploration to sullen ones remembering those lost on that cold, unforgiving evening of 15 April 1912, and from fascination with the Oceangate’s amazing submersible technology and operations prowess to sublime feelings of a lifetime accomplishment that until a few months ago I never considered possible.

Now, as I wing my way from New Foundland westward on Air Canada, I am reminded of how much of my career has been dedicated to exploration–primarily via the spacecraft of bodies in our solar system but also to the rocket exploration of Earth’s upper atmosphere and aurora, and even to far-away places in our galaxy using the tools of astronomy.

I love exploration, and believe it is integral to making us human and to improving our society. I relish the thought of going back to work on NASA’s New Horizons mission, which I lead, to further explore the Kuiper Belt, and to my smaller roles on NASA’s Lucy Trojan asteroid exploration and Europa Clipper ocean world exploration missions. Even more so, I look forward to beginning my training soon to fly aboard Virgin Galactic, hopefully next year, to personally do research from space–a lifelong goal.

But as we fly on westward, I also am grateful. Grateful to Dylan Taylor who first invited me to make the Titanic trip, to my other crew mates Randy Brunschwig, Evan Dick, and Stockton Rush who made the experience so full, to the Southwest Research Institute for sponsoring my travel, and to OceanGate Expeditions and @Horizon who carried out the expedition. I’m also grateful to all those of the two generations before mine who imagined and then carried out Apollo, for enthralling me about a career in exploration in general and space exploration in specific.

Looking back on the incredible, truly awesome past 11 days, I am inspired and invigorated, and feel quite literally blessed to have had such an opportunity as to visit and explore the RMS Titanic, to learn about deep sea exploration technology, and to be able to communicate some of what it was like with you.

Let’s always keep exploring!


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻