On Sunday, 18 June 2023, A submersible known as Titan which is owned by a submarine tech company Oceangate set off from St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada on a mission to visit and explore the wreckage of Titanic at the ocean floor.
The Titan which is a 22-foot carbon-fiber and titanium craft was deployed into the ocean by a Canadian expedition ship, the M.V. Polar Prince, to travel nearly 13,000 feet down to the shipwreck site, on the North Atlantic Ocean floor off Newfoundland.
The descent was supposed to take 2 hour 30 minutes and ascent after exploration was also supposed to take same time frame.
Sadly, The Titan lost contact with the surface ship an hour and 45 minutes after it started to dive on Sunday,
THE BACKGROUND STORY
The expedition crewed by 5 men was to descend over 12,500ft to the ocean floor where the wreckage of the R.M.S. Titanic, the biggest steamship in the world at the time, hit an iceberg four days into its first trans-Atlantic voyage in April 1912, and sank to the bottom of the ocean killing more than 1,500 people.
After it sank, The Titanic wreck lay undisturbed on the ocean floor for over 73 years until it was discovered in pieces in 1985, about 400 miles off Newfoundland at the floor of the ocean.
Since its discovery, the wreck of the titanic has become a tourist attraction of some sorts to marine researchers, scientists, tourists and wealthy thrill seekers.
On board the Titan was five people who wanted to explore the Titanic wreck and they are:
Stockton Rush, an aerospace engineer, pilot, founder and chief executive of OceanGate Expeditions, which operates the now missing vessel, Hamish Harding, a British billionaire businessman and explorer; another British billionaire businessman, Shahzada Dawood and his 19 year old son, Suleman, from one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families; and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French maritime expert who has been on more than 35 dives to the Titanic wreck.
Due to the depth of the Titanic wreckage, visiting and exploring the site is difficult and expensive. For proper perspective, Human divers wearing specialized equipment and breathing helium-rich air mixtures can safely reach depths of just a few hundred feet below the surface before having to succumb to decompression. A couple of hundred feet deeper, light from the sun can no longer penetrate the water and the pressure at that point will kill any human who ventures that deep and that is why those descending below 800-1000 feet must be inside a specially made submersible to be able to survive.
This is why a boarding ticket in the Titan submersible cost $250,000 per seat for passengers who want to go on Deep Ocean dives and exploration.
A desperate search and rescue operation is underway to try and find the submersible before its oxygen supply runs out on Thursday morning.
Over 10 aircrafts, 4 submarines, 6 large vessels, 14 small boats, 3 under water RVs and 8 sonar buoys were involved in the search for the vessel.
If indeed the Titan is found intact, rescuing it will be a race against time. The US Navy’s deep sea salvage system, Fadoss, has been deployed alongside a remotely operated vehicle called Curv-21 (cable-controlled undersea recovery vehicle). This 2.4-metre (8ft) craft, about the size of a large refrigerator, can operate as far down as 6km (20,000ft).
Recovering the missing Titan submersible and bringing its crew to safety in time using the latest advanced deep-sea rescue equipment would be an extremely difficult task.
Even if Titan is located, a successful rescue would require remote-controlled vehicles (ROVs) capable of allowing operators on the surface a clear view of the submersible’s location, any obstacles that may be present and where to attach cables capable of lifting it thousands of meters through the water.
If the Titan and its five-person crew did arrive at the Titanic wreck, they will be located 3,800 metres (12,500ft) below the surface on the seabed – too deep for most ROVs to reach. Only a “tiny percentage of the world’s submarines operate that deeply”, according to David Marquet, a former US Navy submarine commander.
On Tuesday, rescue operations searching for the Titan submersible focused their efforts on a remote area of the North Atlantic where a series of underwater noises defined as “BANGING SOUNDS” was detected by Canadian P-3 aircraft on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. Sadly, just a few hours ago the sounds were dismissed as irrelevant and normal search within the wreck of the titanic resumed.
The US Coast Guard and Canada are frantically trying to locate the vessel, which is said to have last “pinged” while above the Titanic wreckage. France has also sent vessels to join the search and rescue mission.
So far, the Coast Guard has already searched 7,600 square miles of ocean
In 2018, David Lochridge, OceanGate’s director of marine operations, filed a lawsuit against the company after he was fired for raising safety concerns. In court document, Lochridge stated that the company’s testing and certification was insufficient and would “subject passengers to potential extreme danger in their vessels which he referred to as experimental submersibles”
Also, few years ago, leaders and stakeholders in the submersible industry who were uncomfortable over Oceangate’s indifference to standards and safety issues sent a letter to Stockton Rush , the Oceangate CEO, warning him that “the current ‘experimental approach’ of the company could result in problems ranging ‘from minor to catastrophic.’
The letter was sent by the Manned Underwater Vehicles committee of the Marine Technology Society, which is a 60-year-old trade group which promotes and moderates the development of ocean technology.
It remains unclear if Mr Rush, or a fellow employee, responded to the letter, and there was no additional information on why the company’s approach was considered dangerous by the group as far back as 2018.
However, the most damning issue facing ocean gate is the 2018 revelation from David Lochridge over “safety concerns” and “quality control issues” over the Titan vessel and the fact that he was reportedly “met with hostility” before being sacked from the company for daring to question the CEO and executive management over safety standards of the OceanGate vessels.
David Lochridge and the leadership of the Manned Underwater Vehicles committee of the Marine Technology Society have now provided documented evidence to the authorities highlighting their earlier warnings to the management of Oceangate which was ignored and even punished in the case of David Lochridge.
It is also revealed that the vessel Titan can only be locked from outside. The only door to the vessel is sealed off by bolts applied from the outside, there’s no way to unlock it from the inside, and there is no way to escape, even if the vessel rise to the surface. The passengers cannot get out of the sub without a crew on the outside opening it up and letting them out. A catastrophic design flaw.
Another shocking revelation is missing titanic submarine operated by cheap video game controller which can be purchased with just £42 on amazon. Experts insist that at £42, it might not be the piece of equipment you’d expect in a dangerous 13,000ft dive to the bottom of the sea.
Aside the cheap controller controversy, for the expensive amount of money it costs to do these dives, there should at least be some sonar detection system installed, like ‘black boxes’ on aircraft, to ping where they were when the distress signal was sent and thereby allow more time to plot how the vessel can be retrieved.
Experts describe it as shocking that there is no such location detection technology or tracking device in the vessel despite the huge price tag.
One thing is clear though, If Stockton Rush survives this ordeal, he will have a lot of questions to answer and a lot of lawsuits to deal with although Passengers previously onboard the OceanGate submarine that ventures to the wreck of the Titanic have revealed how they were asked to sign a waiver which admits the vessel has not been verified by a professional or regulatory body.
CBS journalist David Pogue, who boarded craft to visit the wreckage of the Titanic last year, said that among the paperwork shown to potential passengers was a waiver which stated: “This experimental vessel has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body, and could result in physical injury, emotional trauma, or death.”
Another past client of Oceangate, Mike Reiss, an American television writer and producer also reported that he did three separate dives with OceanGate including one to the Titanic and each time he was made to sign a massive waiver that he could die on the trip and the company was not to be held liable.
“Nobody who was in this situation was caught off-guard. You all know what you’re getting into, it’s exploration, it’s not a vacation, and it’s not thrill-seeking, it’s not like skydiving, these are explorers and travelers who want to see something.”
Mr. Reiss revealed the ship is not “shoddy” but as its new technology there is always a risk something could go wrong.
The missing vessel has only about 15 hours of oxygen left until the curtain draws on the lives of Mr Stockton Rush and the 4 unfortunate billionaire crew members
Last week. In Greece, a ship carrying hundreds of migrants went down in the Mediterranean sea with authorities estimates showing that the sunken vessel had up to 100 children and over 800 adults on board and they all were declared dead and lost at sea. only a few were rescued by the Greek Navy while 78 bodies has been recovered. There was not the intense rescue mission like that seen today leading some to question why billionaires are receiving preferential treatment compared to societies poorest.
Why did America, France and Canada look the other way in the Mediterranean sea accident which took close to a thousand lives including women and children but has deployed massively to save just five billionaires?
Your guess is as good as mine.