How many expeditions did OceanGate submersible make to Titanic? When were they?
The Titan tragedy came some two years after the OceanGate submersible had made its first visit to the wreckage of the Titanic, on the Atlantic seafloor.
Five people were killed last month when the Titan, a submersible built and operated by the company OceanGate Expeditions, imploded on a dive to visit the wreckage of the Titanic. Four days after the Titan lost contact with its support ship, debris from the underwater vessel was found some 1,600 feet from the Titanic, which sits on the Atlantic seafloor at a depth of around 12,500 feet.
Titan designed to go deeper than OceanGate’s other submersibles
OceanGate has been carrying out deep-ocean expeditions since 2009. Over the years it has conducted more than 200 dives with its three submersible vessels in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. The Titan was designed to go the deepest of them all, able to reach depths of over 13,000 feet, according to the company.
And this wasn’t the vessel’s first trip to the Titanic. Earlier expeditions had been planned as far back as 2018, but technical and regulatory snags had prevented them from being carried out. It wasn’t until 2021, then again in 2022, that the Titan made the first of several dives to the most famous shipwreck in the world. While generally successful, those expeditions hadn’t been without their own problems. This fatal dive would’ve been the vessel’s 14th trip to the remains of the Titanic.
Concerns raised about OceanGate’s Titan sub
OceanGate chief executive, Stockton Rush, who was on this occasion as was often the case piloting the submersible, would explain to passengers that the Titan’s pressure vessel, made of carbon fiber and titanium, was designed with NASA and the University of Washington during a pre-voyage tour.
However, much of the rest of the structure, the handles, lights and propellers are off-the-shelf parts, including being controlled by a Playstation controller, David Pogue, CBS correspondent and former Titan passenger explained. This is because they are tried and tested in addition to lowering the cost of construction as they are mass produced. Pogue for his part says that he felt okay once the capsule was bolted shut, “I felt like they wouldn’t do this if it was really dangerous.”
In 2018 though, alarms about the Titan were sounded both inside and outside the company the New York Times reports. David Lochridge, the director of marine operations at OceanGate Expeditions, wrote a scolding report calling for more testing of the vessel. Shortly thereafter more than three dozen experts warned Rush in a letter about the company’s “experimental” approach to testing and stressing the Titan.
They called on OceanGate Expeditions to have the sub undergo a traditional assessment by a leading certified organization, one which the company was “unwilling to pay” according to court documents in a legal battle with Lochridge. In those documents, the director of marine operations had learned that the viewport for the Titan was only certified up to 1,300 meters less than a third of what would be needed to reach the Titanic. However, Arron Newman, four-time passenger on the Titan and shareholder in OceanGate, which built and operates the Titan submersible, told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi that vessel had been a prototype.
In 2019, submersible expert Karl Stanley, sent an email to the Titan’s creator Stockton Rush after hearing cracking noises during a dive aboard the vessel. During his 12,000 foot descent, with Rush piloting, the sounds got louder the further down they went.
A series of investigations have been opened into the “catastrophic implosion” by numerous authorities to figure out what happened to the Titan. Currently, recovery teams are collecting the pieces that have been mapped out. Criminal inquiries have not been ruled out but it will be some time until all the details are known.