Dr. Joe MacInnis befirends a BUEI exhibit ahead of his lecture on Thursday.
Dr. Joe MacInnis befirends a BUEI exhibit ahead of his lecture on Thursday.
More than two decades ago he was collecting jewellery from the deck of the RMS Titanic, two and a half miles beneath the ocean's surface.

Last week he was discussing climate change and space travel with Buzz Aldrin - the second man ever to walk on the moon.

This week ocean explorer, doctor and author Joe MacInnis is in Bermuda to give a talk on the exploration and salvage of one of the world's most famous shipwrecks.

"Titanic is one of those wonderful, extraordinary, majestic stories that everybody can project themselves into," Dr. MacInnis said. "People wonder where they could be on that ship and ask themselves, 'what would I have done on that night?'"

Dr. MacInnis went on his first dive of the Titanic in 1987, when he says he had an "extraordinary experience".

He explained:

"I was with the French team and we were at the bottom of the ocean looking into the sediment and the pilot stopped the submarine and said, 'What's that?'

"It was a small bronze statue of a woman with an uplifted arm, about three feet long. And we recognized it right away because it was such an iconic image - it was the statue that stood at the bottom of the grand staircase.

"It took 40 minutes to recover it and put it in the basket.

"This is the one you see on the front cover of the brochures because she has a face - she has a face that looks at you - and you know that people on that ship saw that face and responded to it."

Mr. MacInnis said that exhibitions like the Titanic display at the BUEI give modern people a "look into another realm".

He said:

"You're suddenly whisked back to the beginning of the last century into what was possible at that time.

"I was always interested in the people who were on the ship and how they behaved.

"Some of the people on that ship were so heroic in terms of helping other people. There are some great stories of that night. But there are also some not so good stories about cowardice and people dressing up as women to get into the lifeboats."

Describing himself as a "scientist who loves to write," Dr. MacInnis frequently rubs elbows with some of today's brightest minds, including former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall and, perhaps most notably, Hollywood director James Cameron, who directed the blockbuster film, 'Titanic' in 1997.

"Jim's film was fantastic, brilliant," Dr. MacInnis said. "And the reason it was brilliant is because it is Jim doing it.

"He took great pains to ensure everything - from the carpet to the tea cups - were the same.

"Millions of people saw that film and they came away with a new appreciation of the physical forces of the ocean - the ice, the depth, the pressures, the coldness."

In 2005 he co-led a major seven million dollar Discovery Channel expedition to broadcast live from the Titanic alongside his Hollywood director friend James Cameron.

Dr. MacInnis said:

"In my talk on Thursday I'm going to show some footage from that expedition where we take this small robot and drop it down through decks and we go into these rooms that no one has seen for almost 100 years.

"The challenge with that expedition was that it was a live broadcast, where we were broadcasting from the bottom of the Atlantic. Jim was hosting the show two and a half miles down on the deck of the Titanic. That meant that we had to build a fiber optic system to carry the signal from the shipwreck to the ship. It was the most technically-challenging expedition I have ever been on."

Dr. MacInnis also spend two months diving with James Cameron during his recent $14- million expedition to make the giant-screen film, 'Aliens of the Deep'.

He is also the first person to dive and film under the North Pole.

He has led or participated in more than fifty major undersea expeditions and logged more time inside the Arctic Ocean than any other scientist.

As a physician, he has spent twenty years studying human performance in high- risk environments.

His work has earned him a number of distinctions, including his country's highest honor, the Order of Canada.

Joe MacInnis will be lecturing and signing books at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute this Thursday. Doors open at 6pm with a cash bar with a 7pm start. The cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Dinner tickets are $33.75.

Call 297-7314 to purchase tickets.