On June 18th, 2023, Oceangate Expedition’s deep-diving submarine, carrying a crew of five, lost communication while journeying underwater towards the Titanic wreck site (source). There were 5 passengers on-board and a search was still going on as of morning time on Wednesday
From the video below:
I don’t want to hire subject matter experts on submarines because they’re all 50-something white guys
It took a bit of hunting to run down the original source and context of this statement. This is from an interview Stockton Rush, founder and CEO of OceanGate did with two vice presidents from Teledyne Marine. The date is not specified, but was during the pandemic. The video cannot be embedded here, but may be viewed at the link below.
… there are other sub operators out there but they typically have…um…gentlemen who are ex-military submariners, and…they…you’ll see a whole bunch of 50 year old white guys . Um…I wanted our team to be younger, to be inspirational and I’m not going to inspire a 16 year old to go pursue marine technology. But a 25 year old who’s a sub pilot or a platform operator or one of our techs can be inspirational. So we’ve really tried to get…um…very intelligent, motivated, younger individuals involved because we’re doing things that are completely new. We’re taking approaches that are used largely in the aerospace industry as related to safety and…um…some of the preponderances of checklists, things we do for risk assessment . Things like that that are more aviation related…than…um…ocean related. We can train people to do that. I mean, we can train someone to pilot the sub – we use a game controller…but…so…um…anybody can drive the sub.
I’m hesitant to speculate but just sharing – an earlier version of this submersible was scrapped:
"OceanGate will take advantage of lessons learned during the construction of its carbon-hulled Titan submersible, which was originally built for Titanic journeys. Rush said tests that were conducted at the Deep Ocean Test Facility in Annapolis, Md., revealed that the Titan’s hull “showed signs of cyclic fatigue.” As a result, the hull’s depth rating was reduced to 3,000 meters.
The U.S. Coast Guard has just held (2023-06-22, starting around 19:00 UTC) a press briefing in which they announced the discovery of multiple debris fields which have been identified as originating from the “Titan” submersible. Both end caps of the main pressure vessel were identified, consistent with a catastrophic failure of the pressure hull. Debris location and dispersion are consistent with this failure having occurred during descent, with debris falling to the bottom. The debris landed in an area of flat ocean floor free of debris from the Titanic.
There is no definitive way to know when the implosion occurred, but the Coast Guard says they can rule out its having occurred after their sonobuoys were deployed, as they would have detected such an event had it occurred subsequently.
The Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) will remain on the scene for the moment to examine the debris on the ocean bottom. Other search and rescue resources are being “de-mobilised”.
For some reason, the link to the press release on the OceanGate site is failing with a CloudFlare 525 error (SSL handshake failed). However, GeekWire picked up the press release and ran this article on 2020-02-26:
The agreement calls for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama to serve as the site for developing and manufacturing a new type of aerospace-grade hull.
OceanGate said the joint design effort will be key to its plans for building a five-person submersible capable of going as deep as 6,000 meters (19,800 feet). If the company can stick to its current timetable, such a submersible would go into service next year and take on a series of dives to the wreck of the Titanic, at a depth of 12,500 feet in the North Atlantic.
“We continue to receive more demand for Titanic, deep-sea research and environmental supervision of deep-sea mining missions that very few submersibles in the world have the capability of supporting,” OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush said in a news release. “NASA’s advanced composite manufacturing capability is ideally suited for the high precision and high-quality requirements of our hull design.”
“NASA is committed to cutting-edge composites research and development that will not only further our deep-space exploration goals, but will also improve materials and manufacturing for American industry,” said John Vickers, principal technologist for advanced manufacturing technology at NASA. “This Space Act Agreement with OceanGate is a great example of how NASA partners with companies to bring space technology back down to Earth.”
Rush said OceanGate would be paying NASA for its services.
“To have NASA accept the project, it had to meet several requirements, such as advancing technology and being not readily available from commercial sources,” Rush told GeekWire in an email.
Over the past couple of years, OceanGate spent millions of dollars building a carbon-hulled submersible known as Titan, which the company hoped would be capable of diving to the Titanic. However, validation tests conducted at the Deep Ocean Test Facility in Maryland found signs of fatigue in the hull, resulting in a depth rating that ruled out Titanic trips.
From 2022-03-09, PRWeb reported:
OCEANGATE, INC worked in consultation with a team of engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama throughout the development and manufacturing of Titan, the world’s only carbon fiber and titanium submersible capable of carrying five crew members to the wreck of the RMS Titanic at 3,800 meters. This achievement marks the beginning of a new era of exploration offering a vast range of opportunities for deep-sea investigation and scientific research.
As shared in the NASA Analog Fact Sheet: One of the most extreme environments on Earth is the ocean. Not only is the ocean harsh and unpredictable, it also provides many parallels to the challenges of living and working in space.
NASA’s collaboration with OceanGate was made possible through the Space Act. The Space Act was designed to benefit both NASA’s diverse missions, including the Artemis program and future exploration initiatives, and organizations like OceanGate.
“NASA’s expertise in the design and automated fiber placement lay up of composite hulls was extremely valuable on this project,” says Stockton Rush, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, OceanGate, Inc. “The ability to construct Titan’s pressure hull with aerospace grade carbon fiber and manufacturing protocols results in a submersible which weighs a fraction of what other deep diving crewed submersibles weigh. This weight reduction allows us to carry a significantly greater payload which we use to carry five crewmembers: a pilot, researchers, and mission specialists. Titan represents a consequential step forward for human exploration of the ocean which few realize constitutes 99% of Earth’s livable volume.”
NASA Space Shuttle Astronaut, Dr. Scott Parazynski provides additional perspective: “Exploration of our deep oceans is imperative to gaining a better understanding of our blue planet. Spending many weeks in space as a NASA astronaut looking down upon our planet gave me a deeper appreciation for the fragility of our planet,” says Dr. Scott Parazynski, OceanGate submersible pilot-in-training. “In 2021, I had the wonderful opportunity to dive to the Titanic site as an OceanGate Expeditions crewmember. This cutting-edge submersible technology has the power to change the way we explore our deep oceans and understand our planet. I look forward to our second expedition this summer,” continues Parazynski.
However, debris recovery of hull fragments may be helpful to determine support for the hypothesis advanced by the ex-OceanGate whistleblower that got fired in 2018 for raising concerns around the cyclic fatigue patterns he observed.
One observation is that it’s been reported (by WSJ among others) the US Navy had recorded an underwater event consistent with implosion right as it happened Sunday. The report states they used some sort of unspecified “advanced technology”.
If that is true, does it mean the USG basically sat on the info as the Coast Guard deployed in what they must have known at the leadership level was a futile effort? And the stories of hearing banging noises every 30 minutes were bunk that they were still putting out?
A possible explanation was the Navy was perfectly happy to sit on the info in order to avoid disclosing the extent of their underwater monitoring. And that changes once the unmanned underwater submarine deployed later this week discovered the debris field. At which point, the calculation reversed and there was perceived value in reinforcing the “all-seeing, all-knowing” optics around Navy capabilities.