The corporation behind the OceanGate submersible expedition has come under renewed scrutiny after the verified implosion of the submersible, which was bringing five visitors to the depths of the ocean. Among the dead was the sub’s pilot.
In a 2021 interview that has recently unearthed, OceanGate CEO and submarine pilot Stockton Rush admits to having “broken some rules” in order to open the Titanic to tourists. Alan Estrada, a fellow YouTuber who accompanied him on his trip that year to the Titanic wreck, was the interviewee.
“I’d like to be remembered as an innovator. I think it was General [Douglas] MacArthur who said, ‘You’re remembered for the rules you break,'” Rush said. “And I’ve broken some rules to make this. I think I’ve broken them with logic and good engineering behind me.”
“I’ve broken some rules to make this…”
— John Holowesko (@jholowesko) June 21, 2023
Rush, in his conversation with Estrada, addressed the design of the ship, which has been called into doubt since the news of its demise became public. “The carbon fiber and titanium – there’s a rule you don’t do that,” Rush said, speaking of the materials used to construct the sub.
The tweet below verifies the news:
OceanGate said it worked with the University of Washington and Boeing to build its now-imploded Titan sub. They say otherwise. https://t.co/DRPtL6X8kb
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 23, 2023
“Well, I did. It’s picking the rules that you break that are the ones that will add value to others and add value to society, and that really to me is about innovation.” Will Kohnen, chairman of the Marine Technology Society’s Manned Underwater Vehicles Committee, told Reuters that carbon fiber was a “unique” technique, but that “nobody had ever made a carbon fiber pressure hull for that depth before.“
“It is very difficult to test and verify,” he said. “…Metallic hulls have elasticity to them. We know how they behave. … But carbon fiber – very, very strong in tension. They’re not so strong in compression. And we know that. But it is how do they react under extreme pressure that leaves a lot of research.”
Rush claimed that the sub’s acrylic plexiglass window, which measured 7 inches in thickness, would “squeeze in about 3/4 of an inch.” “It just deforms,” he remarked, referring to the massive underwater pressure the ship would encounter. If something is about to break or fail, you’ll hear a crackling sound long before it does.
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When the submarine was in its “trial phase,” Estrada said, those remarks were made. Rush, though, would not let the limited scope of the trial phase dampen his hopes for the product. He revealed to Estrada his disappointment that his plans to upgrade the ship’s technology had to be scrapped. At some point, he hoped to enter the submarine and have its voice-recognition system prompt him with the question, “Stockton, how deep are we diving today?”
“The sub is your vehicle to get there. It should be an elevator,” Rush said. “It should not be an exercise in buttons and switches and stuff.” Estrada, who went down with the vessel on Sunday before it disappeared, told Reuters that they lost contact at 3,280 feet. After about an hour and 45 minutes into the tragic OceanGate mission, all contact was lost.
David Pogue of CBS News, who took a trip on the Titan submersible last year, commented on “CBS Mornings” on Friday that “there were things that seemed sort of unsophisticated” during his trip. He mentioned it to Rush as well. “He said, ‘Yeah, that’s true. But these are just bells and whistles.
The part that keeps you alive, the part we care about, is that carbon fiber cylinder and titanium end caps,'” Pogue recalled. “And that, he said, ‘is buttoned down.’” However, the ship’s safety had been questioned by several specialists in the past. A trade association issued a letter of caution about the Titan’s design in 2018, stating that it could lead to “catastrophic” results.
CBS News’ @pogue, who traveled underwater in OceanGate’s Titan submersible last year, says while the tragedy of the implosion will likely have a “chilling effect” on deep sea tourism — it is unlikely to deter those explorers who get “meaning from the risk of death.” pic.twitter.com/rvshqrp57p
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) June 23, 2023
In the same year, an employee at OceanGate complained about the company’s testing procedures for the vessel and was subsequently terminated. DNV-GL certification is a gold standard for marine equipment, although it seems the ship never received it.
Then, in February, only a few months prior to the disastrous trip, a Florida couple sued OceanGate, claiming they had paid for a trip that had been repeatedly canceled without receiving a refund. They claim that “equipment failure” prevented one of the excursions from taking place.
Although many are doubting Rush’s designs, Pogue pointed out that Rush was a “Princeton-educated aerospace engineer” who had previously developed and constructed airplanes and submersibles. He also said that the Titan had travelled “to the sea floor 20 times uneventfully.”
Rush had also said that NASA, the University of Washington, and Boeing had all contributed to the design of the Titan. The University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, according to a statement released by the institution, “provided engineering services to the company and Rush from 2013 to 2020,” however these services were performed using a different submersible.
The CYCLOPS, which they assisted in creating, had a steel shell and was designed for shallow dives of no more than 500 meters in depth. When asked by CBS News, Boeing stated that the company “was not a partner on the Titan and did not design or build it.” CBS News has contacted NASA for a response. “Yes, it looks terrible now. Yes, we see things that were missed,” he said. “But nobody thought anything at the time.”
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