Newfoundland and Labrador’s Titanic Explorer

NL’s own Larry Daley has an interesting connection to the most famous, or infamous, ship of all time: The Titanic

Newfoundlander Larry Daley has an interesting claim to fame. “I would say I have one of the largest Titanic and iceberg exhibits in the world, or one of the largest privately owned Titanic exhibits in the world, and probably the only Titanic and Iceberg collection in the world,” he shared proudly. 

Walking into Daley’s home is like walking into a museum. His daughter Becky Daley, well known to OZFM listeners and to NTV viewers, is always proud to show off her father’s treasures. 

From artifacts off of the actual Titanic, to remarkable props from the famous James Cameron blockbuster, Titanic, there’s so much to take in. 

Daley’s passion for all things Titanic started innocently enough; by being in the right place at the right time, he opined.  While out enjoying a sociable after work in September 1985 at Christian’s Pub on George Street, a group of what seemed to be expedition type individuals entered the bar and were celebrating.

13,000 foot Decent

“When I asked them what was the occasion, they stated that they had just found Titanic in the past few days and were heading home through Newfoundland,” he shared.

His passion has taken him many places, including to the resting place of that ill-fated vessel which sunk after striking an iceberg off Newfoundland in 1912. It sank within hours, taking over 1,500 lives with it. There were just 700 survivors. On June 25, 2003, Daley dove in a small Russian sub to see the wreckage, which lies almost 13,000 feet, or 2.5 miles deep below the ocean surface about 350 nautical miles off Newfoundland’s coast.

Daughter Becky told The Herald that she will never forget the day her dad set sail on his now famous expedition. “I was scared. I remember when he left, mom and I watched from Signal Hill. I was upset. He was on a boat and really couldn’t communicate with us.”

Daley knew, and understood, her fear. “I knew she was afraid. Her mother had to peel her off a chain link fence when she saw me on the stern of the ship sailing out through the harbour. The bond between us has always been so tight, we’re so close, but I also knew she was proud of what I was doing because she knew how much it meant to me,” he said.

Daley has long been intrigued by the Titanic. “I always knew about it when I was young, and I had seen some of the old black and white movies and watched the documentaries in the late 80’s of when they went back to recover artifacts to put in public display … but the year they discovered The Titanic and the chance meeting in a bar after work really pulled me in.”

He always knew there was a Newfoundland connection, he added. “Cape Race (Titanic’s distress call, issued late on the night of April 14, 1912, was received at the Marconi wireless station at Cape Race on our southern shore) and Newfoundland being the closest landfall to the wreck. That’s kind of where it started.”

Then, there was the film, Titanic, and the many expeditions to view the wreckage for documentaries, for science, as well as for eager tourists paying anywhere from $75,000 American dollars in 2003, to $250,000 to dive and see the wreckage in 2022.

“In 1996 an expedition went out to recover more artifacts and also to raise a big piece of the hull. They ended up having to drop it, and couldn’t get it on the vessel because of some technical issues. So they actually dropped it in a more shallow area close to the site.” 

The crew would return in 1998. “I actually was hired to be the expedition logistics coordinator for that one. I put a vessel out myself that I chartered and I also hosted Dateline NBC and Discovery Channel folks who were documenting that for television.”

That led to Daley forming a relationship with famed director James Cameron. “I’ve been very fortunate to work with Jim Cameron over several expeditions and through that a friendship formed and that friendship is still intact to this day,” he shared.

Fascinated by icebergs

Daley has spoken often about icebergs and the significance they hold. He’s an adventurous spirit, that we know, but what is it about icebergs themselves that captivate him, we ask. 

“I was always fascinated by icebergs because they’re very majestic and we’re very fortunate to see them go by our coastlines every spring going into the summer.” 

They’re a huge magnet for tourists, he added, and little wonder. “They’re amazing to see in all the different sizes and the shapes. When they’re active and you see them rolling, you put on the proper gear and grab your good cameras and go and get lots of photographs, video and things like that, but always enjoy them from a safe distance.”

The feeling of being out there is hard to explain, he added. 

“When you get into a nice field of ‘bergs and growlers, and they’re floating there, you get a feeling. There might be a few ‘bergs in that same area and all you hear is this hiss and crackling sound of all this ice that’s floating by, big and small. And what you hear is the air that was trapped in the ice from tens of thousands of years ago being released as the ice melts when it hits the waters. And the odd time you may see a humpback whale swim near an iceberg, which is pretty amazing to watch.”

Is he planning anything special for The Titanic’s 110th? “Internationally, there will be things around the world and it will be recognized as a significant anniversary. The topic is still very hot around the world.  There’s several generations interested and excited about The Titanic story. I had kids come up to me or parents with kids ask for a picture autographed of The Titanic that I took when I was down that time. I’m always amazed that six and seven year old kids know about The Titanic. It gets them excited about reading and science and that’s a good thing,” he said. 

What does he think the attraction is 110 years later? He paused. “Well, it’s interesting. It’s the story of how something man-made that was bragged about as being unsinkable could lead to such a catastrophic event with such a great loss of life. Over 1,500 people perished on a calm evening in calm waters.”

There’s also the compelling story of survival too, he continued. But there’s more to the tale. 

“It’s the arrogance and ignorance. That’s what caused that catastrophic event off our shores, which could have been easily avoided in numerous ways. From the speed they were going … It could have been avoided.”

‘Lifeboat drills’

Life boats. There wasn’t enough, he continued. “They even avoided doing the lifeboat drills because they wanted to get underway and get across the Atlantic. Break a record, type thing.” 

As to his collection? It’s nothing compared to his memories of being on board a submersible. “You drop for hours, down to almost 13,000 feet and you land on the bottom, turn on the outside floodlights and light up the bow of The Titanic, and that’s the picture I took. We floated from the sea floor up over the bow and to realize you are on the bottom of the ocean looking at the most famous ship of all time is amazing.” 

Daley paused, lost in reflection and thought. “That’s such an amazing part of my life and it’s so surreal to have been there,  and I know how blessed I was to experience that.”

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