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Titan CEO Stockton Rush’s first submarine: what did he say about the 2006 creation?

The creator of the missing submersible told the Smithsonian that he built his first underwater vehicle after an experience cold-water diving in Seattle.

Titan CEO Stockton Rush’s route into deep sea exploration
Shannon StapletonREUTERS

The Titan submersible is still missing after a five-person expedition to explore the wreckage of the Titanic disappeared last Sunday.

The underwater vehicle is the creation of Stockton Rush, CEO and founder of OceanGate Expeditions. Rush was aboard the Titan submarine when it disappeared on Sunday night and a huge search and rescue mission is still underway.

Rush began his career as a pilot after qualifying from the United Airlines Jet Training Institute at the age of 19. He hoped to become a pilot in the military but was turned down after failing an eyesight test. Soon after he switched his focus to engineering.

After building a Glasair III experimental aircraft he had a formative experience while cold-water diving at Puget Sound, a large salt water estuary off the coast of Seattle.

“Puget Sound is full of nutrients, so you have sharks and whales and crabs and dolphins and seals and anemones,” Rush told the Smithsonian Magazine back in 2019.

“It’s an absolutely incredible place to dive—except that it’s freezing,” he said, recalling the thick, full-body dry suits required to complete the dive. “I loved what I saw, but I thought, There’s gotta be a better way.”

submarion titan
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The Titan's carbon fibre frame is just 22 feet long.

For Rush, who studied aerospace engineering at Princeton University, making sea exploration more comfortable became an obsession.

“The moment I went underwater, I was like, Oh—you can’t describe this. When you go in a sub, things sound different, they look different. It’s like you’ve gone to a different planet.”

It piqued Rush’s entrepreneurial spirit: “I had come across this business anomaly I couldn’t explain: If three-quarters of the planet is water, how come you can’t access it?”

His first ‘mini-sub’ was only capable of reaching a depth of around 30 feet, but Rush told the Smithsonian that it was enough for him to contract “the depth disease” and he set about trying to increase the distances.

His original submersible, created in 2006, was based on blueprints given to Rush by a retired U.S. Navy submarine commander. Rush was able to build his first mini-sub, a 12-foot-long tube with a plexiglass window at one end. That first iteration had just about enough room for a single occupant and no other passengers, but Rush would soon expand on his design.

Rush went on to found OceanGate in 2009 with the stated mission of “increasing access to the deep ocean through innovation.”

The future of mankind is underwater, it’s not on Mars,” he told Estrada last year. “We will have a base underwater … If we trash this planet, the best life boat for mankind is underwater.”

Work began on the Titan submersible in 2013, initially known as Cyclops 2. In 2018 it was renamed ‘Titan’ and the first voyage to the Titanic was completed in July 2021.