Top explorer urges caution with boom in sea and space adventure, extreme tourism after Titan tragedy
As extreme tourism increases and membership in Explorers Club continues to grow, top explorer urges people to reconsider deep-sea dive or travelling to space
“While we should all appreciate efforts to innovate in order to push the boundaries of exploration, this must be done safely and sensibly,” Richard Garriott, president of the Explorers Club, said in a statement Friday. French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet and British adventurer Hamish Harding, who died last week in the implosion of the Titan submersible, were both members of the club, a professional society dedicated to research and scientific exploration.
Garriott said he had always felt “uncomfortable” about the prospect of riding the Titan because it was the only deep-diving submersible to carry commercial passengers that was not certified or inspected by an industry authority. “Perhaps some good can come of this, as Hamish and PH would have wanted,” he said.
The poor track record of the Titan’s maker, OceanGate, became clear last week after reports emerged following the vessel’s disappearance. The drama resurfaced old lawsuits and complaints decrying the company’s negligent safety measures and false claims that the Titan met industry standards.
Those revelations, a five-day search-and-rescue mission, and a New York Times report that said each passenger paid $250,000 for the trip contributed to a public backlash. Twitter users posted photos of the Titan submersible alongside images of migrant ships, arguing the resources could have instead been used to save hundreds from drowning.
Harding posted on social media on June 18 that the area was experiencing “its worst weather in 40 years.”
It wasn’t the first time such a trip sparked an outcry over spending. In 2021, Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, also a member of the Explorers Club, launched himself and three others into space and back while the company was under fire for warehouse working conditions and efforts to bust unions trying to advocate for better wages.
But for all the criticism, extreme tourism is increasing, and membership in the Explorers Club continues to grow. Adele Doran, principal lecturer in adventure tourism and recreation at Sheffield Hallam University in England, told Business Insider that for people who may reconsider a deep-sea dive or traveling to space, “they’ll just be replaced by others.”
Extreme tourism is a small part of the adventure tourism that became popular during Covid lockdowns, according to a CNN interview with John Lennon, dean of the Glasgow School for Business and Society and director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development. People are looking for a differentiated experience that can be shared on social media, he told the network.
Garriott, who was personal friends with Harding, is the sixth private citizen to visit the International Space Station, according to the statement. The son of an American astronaut, he co-founded Space Adventures, which organizes flights beyond the atmosphere.
The ultimate — and potentially riskiest — act of extreme tourism being planned right now is a trip to the moon.
In Japan, Yusaku Maezawa, founder of online apparel retailer Zozo Inc., is preparing a trip to the moon and back with a handpicked crew of artists, performers and professional athletes. The voyage is scheduled make a week-long lunar trip in 2024 aboard a SpaceX Starship.
Members of his crew were selected from thousands of applications in a public call and includes a deejay, musician, photographer, actor and a dancer from the US, UK, South Korea, Ireland, India, Japan and the Czech Republic.
Maezawa said he hopes his space tour will inspire passengers to create something new, and that art from the lunar journey would be exhibited eventually to promote peace on Earth.
“Today, we are seeing the same evolution in space travel and submarines,” Garriott said. Space travel is “expensive and dangerous, as expected, but it is a necessary step in the continued reduction of cost and increase in safety of space flight.”