JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — "This is the MIR 1. This is a Russian submersible," said Roger Bansemer as he points to a large painting of his that shows off blues, oranges, and whites. The painting is in his St. Augustine studio.
He was in that submersible when he went to the Titanic in 2000 and again in 2005.
"I was invited to this expedition if I would do a book on the subject," Bansemer told First Coast News, Friday, on the 110th anniversary of this ship's sinking.
Bansemer is is a painter and an author.
He remembers, "When we first get in there (the submersible), it's was very hot."
He and two other men were squeezed inside the tiny space.
The Titanic is about two and a half miles under the water's surface.
"I saw the bow first," Bansemer said. "We creeped up and there it was right in front of us." His hands spread out in front of him as he described the moment.
The team was at the ship for 13 hours.
During his second trip to the Titanic, Bansemer even put the finishing touches on paintings of the ship, while right in front of it.
"As far as I know, those painting and prints are the only paintings and prints that have been to the Titanic," he said.
He and his wife have a show on PBS called Painting and Travel with Roger and Sarah Bansemer. One episode is about his Titanic experience.
On his first trip down, Bansemer noticed a growth on the bow of the ship, when he went down again, it was still there and even bigger.
You can hear him on the video in the sub, saying, "There’s my little friend, the flower."
It was meaningful to him.
He knows this site is sacred and tragic, yet beautiful too.
And he is one of the very few who have seen it, twice.