The Shirshov Institute of Oceanology who owns the Keldysh and Mirs One and Two has a good website I came across while doing some research. Go to http://www.sio.rssi.ru/index_en.htm and click on "Underwater Research" on the left hand side for a page of info on the Mirs and content links at the bottom.
I believe the Japanese submersible SHINKAI has an even greater deep-sea capability range unlike the MIRS who's maximum operating depth is around 20,000', SHINKAI can attain yet furthur depth.
However the Japanese share not an interest in ferrying persons to TITANIC. There interests are strictly scientific, for example the mid-atlantic range.
As a side note syntactic foam is a series of glass beads and also the same technology applied to the TITANIC artifact recovery baskets used by IFREMER.
The real issue is actually cost. The day rate for the SHINKAI is more than double what it costs to charter both MIR submersibles and the KELDYSH.
With the Russians, you get two subs for the price of one, plus the mother ship, all fuel and other costs. The day rate is lower still for transit days and on-site non-diving days.
With SHINKAI, the day rate is always the same, and it starts to accumulate as soon as you leave the port in Japan. Therefore, the cost to shuttle the sub from Japan to the North Atlantic is staggering.
The exact terms of the charter agreements are confidential. However, I can tell you that the day rate for the Keldysh and two Mirs is comparable to the day rate for one ROV and support ship from Phoenix or Oceaneering, if not slightly less.
Actually, there are two day rates, one for transit and one for dive days. There used to be three day rates, including a day rate for on-site, non-diving days. The rate for transit was about half the rate for diving, while the rate for on-site was slightly less than transit. The difference in rates for on-site and transit was due to the difference in fuel usage. You burn less fuel simply maintaining station over the dive site, so it costs less.
The daily price increased about 15-20% between the time I negotiated the charter agreement for RMST in 2000 and the time I negotiated the charter agreement for OTB in 2005. However, the price in fuel had risen dramatically during these five years, and the Mirs had undergone a total refit in 2004, so the price increase was understandable. Based on the huge rise in fuel prices since 2005, I imagine the charter price will have risen accordingly.
The great thing about chartering from the Russians is that the price is the price. Unlike American or European companies, which charge exorbitant "add-on" prices for every little task, everything is included in your charter agreement with the Russians except food and beverages. They did try to bill us for "consumables" about half way through the 2005 expedition, but we simply said no. I have my opinion about why they did this, but it's not important because we didn't pay it.
Finally, the other intangible you have to take into account is that the Russians are absolutely reliable. If they say they will do something, they will do it. Conversely, if they don't commit to doing something, this is tantamount to saying they will not do it, but they just haven't told you yet. Nevertheless, you can rely on the fact that they are not going to do it. This is critical when you are at sea, where you can't afford to miss a day because the subs are not working. They work every time.
Thanks David. As you know I have a fascination with deep-sea technology and a nice collection including the great photo that you had sent of yourself inside a MIR. The 1987 video "Return to the Tiantic" live from Paris France (Joslyn) became my trek of the NAUTILE technology. The French submersible has long been my favorite. However bar none the RUSSIAN/Keldysh expeditions have been overwhelming with the information, understanding, and outstanding photography of the wreck. A particular favorite of mine was J. Chatteron, yourself and others stumble upon the double bottom section...bilge to bilge! I was taken aback.
BTW another of my favorite possesions is a photo sent to me from Paul Henri Nargeolet. P.H., George Tulloch and Walter Lord taken at Lord's home during the premiere TITANIC artifact exhibit.
It must bring comfort to the MIR occupants knowing that a twin is lurking not far off in the gloom of the abyss at the TIATNIC wrecksite.
Thanks Michael. Yes, it is comforting to know there is another sub nearby if you get into trouble, but the joke among divers is that the other MIR occupants can't do anything more than tell you how much trouble you're in. Practically speaking, there is not much the other sub can do if you get into a jam, although it's nice to think it can come to the rescue.
I have to clear up one misconception. We did not "stumble" upon the double bottom hull sections in 2005. Those of us who had previously been to the wreck site already knew they were there. I had seen them five years earlier on my second dive to the TITANIC, IFREMER had filmed them before, and they may have been imaged by WHOI in 1985 or 1986. However, nobody had really studied them before, so we intentionally sent the subs to the east on the third day to do so. Somehow this got blown up into the misconception that we "discovered" these hull sections. We did not. The credit for discovery rightfully goes to others who came before us.
Speaking of day rates. The video "Explorers of the Tiatnic" (Lindsy) features a segment where George Tulloch was talking about maintaining focus during artifact retrieval, trying to get a nice selection of every class and features of the TITANIC. He went on to say it's costing $5.00 a second. Of course that was in 1994.
David, your reply to my comfort zone is interesting. On one of (TITANIC) walls I have a photograph of NAUTILE being recovered safely from a '94 dive. Posted above it I added a direct quote from George Tulloch. It follows:
"When you go out and it's your turn to get into the submersible, you have a serious think with yourself, and it happens hours beforehand. Your not tethered, nothing is connecting you back to the real world. There are not a fleet of these submersibles that can come and rescue you, it's goodbye time. You'll freeze to death before you run out of oxygen. If you really think about all the problems that can go wrong, they'd have to push you down into the sub".
DAVID, I am sure you know the feeling all too well...;-)
I think George's $5.00 per second estimate must have included the costs for all of the ships, sub, food, beverages, salaries, legal fees, conservation costs, transit, etc. The subs don't cost that much, not even today. Also, the IFREMER contracts were included in RMST's public SEC filings. If my memory is correct, I think the last time the NAUTILE was chartered, in 1998 or 1999, the day rate was $40,000.
However, George's other quote, about the danger of diving in the sub, is absolutely correct. In fact, I wrote about this in my article for FATHOMS magazine, which is posted on my web site. I also used George's quote as a basis to draft the liability releases for the 2000 expedition.
What you probably don't know is that all newbies are given an "introduction" to the sub on the transit day out to the site from St. Johns. You sit in the sub for an hour and they tell where everything is and what the switches do, etc., etc. It's all B.S. What they are really doing is keeping you in the sub for an hour, boring you to tears, and watching to see if you are claustrophobic. If you can't handle being in the sub for an hour on the surface with the hatch open, you certainly will not survive a 12 hour trip 2.5 miles down, and your name will be quietly scratched from the dive list.
Finally, George forgot to mention the risk of fire, which is number one on the list of things that can kill you. You can easily have an Apollo 1 scenario. That's why the first thing the pilot does when they drop you in the water is throw all the switches and test the electronic equipment. If you are going to have a fire, it's better to have it on the surface when you can still open the hatch. At least one person may make it out alive -- the first guy up the ladder before the sub fills with water and begins to sink. This comforting little tidbit of information is usually NOT covered in the pre-dive briefing. It's best not to think about it.
Thanks for the added information David. Could you expand on another subject I know little about...the explosive bolts, a last resort of sort that are affixed to the ANGUS sphere. In the event of entrapment on the sea-bottom. Is NAUTILE's titanium sphere or the MIRS nickle plate sphere also equipped with the technology that to my knowledge is not tried and trusted.
I believe in an interview with a WHOI scientist he mentioned the explosive bolts of the ANGUS sphere and if successfully deployed what a "wild" ride it would be to regaain ocean surface, with the constant turning of the detached sphere.