Defiant Stockton Rush Tested the Doomed Titan in Abaco, Bahamas

The overconfident CEO of the doomed submersible Titan, Stockton Rush tested his vessel in the Bahamas 5 years before he and four adventurers met their fate in the North Atlantic Ocean on a quest to see the wreckage of the legendary passenger liner the Titanic.

Rush is seen peering through the only porthole of the vessel during a test dive in Abaco, Bahamas, boasting that it is “the largest viewport of any private deep-diving submersible.” In May 2018 while on the island, he tested the computer equipment and posed near the vessel on the deck of a ship as he prepared to launch his newest adventure which was not certified.

Underwater photographer Emmy Award Winner Becky Kagan Schott took the photo of the ill-fated, disastrous minivan-sized vessel which was made of carbon fibre composite, which many argued could not withstand the immense pressure and cold of the great depths of the ocean.

Emmy underwater photographer Becky Kagan Schott
Stockton Rush peers through the view port of the doomed Titan in the Bahamas in 2018

This was one of two images taken by the acclaimed photographer who in 2019 believed the Titan “was going to the Titanic and would be used for other scientific missions.”

In another photo taken in the island-nation, Schott said, “My image of the OceanGate Submersible Titan descending into the depths during a test dive in 2019 in the Bahamas.”

But the craft, operated with a handheld PlayStation controller, was domed from its conception as Rush too acknowledged the risk saying “at some point, safety just is pure waste” during an interview with CBS correspondent David Pogue last year.

“I mean, if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed. Don’t get in your car. Don’t do anything. At some point, you’re going to take some risk, and it really is a risk/reward question. I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules.”

Experts from the Marine Technology Society sent a letter to Rush, warning him of “catastrophic” consequences if he continued to ignore “the safeguards that protect all submersible occupants,” but OceanGate opposed outside safety testing of its submersible in a 2019 blog post, asserting that it would be “anathema to rapid innovation,” as the company claimed that its “real-time hull health monitoring” would be able to determine “if the hull is compromised well before situations become life-threatening.”

The vessel’s discovery on Thursday proved just that as debris found on the ocean floor was “consistent with catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber” in the submersible, said Rear Admiral John Mauger of the U.S. Coast Guard during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

After a five-day intense search for the wealthy crew of explorers who spent over $250,000 for a seat on the doomed craft, investigators still have not found the bodies of OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush  nor passengers British businessman Hamish Harding, Pakistani investor Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman nor French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

Photo credit: Becky Kagan Schott

‘Catastrophic Implosion’ Killed All Five People Onboard the Titan

All five people onboard the submersible are believed to be dead after rescuers found debris “consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber,” Rear Adm. John Mauger, the First Coast Guard District commander, said during a press briefing on Thursday, nearly five days after a desperate search for the vessel and crew.

What was found

  • The Coast Guard said that a debris field was discovered near the wreck of the Titanic earlier on Thursday morning.
  • The debris was located by a remote-controlled underwater search vehicle (ROV) about 1,600 feet (480m) from the wreckage of the Titanic.
  • Five separate pieces were discovered that allowed authorities to confirm they came from the Titan, including a tail cone.
  • Rear Adm Mauger gave his condolences and said he did not have an answer on whether or not the bodies of the five men on-board could be recovered.
What it means?

The search for the crew and hopes that they would’ve been alive while bolted in the submersible, are dashed. It is believed the crew died aboard the 21-foot minivan-sized vessel operated by OceanGate Expeditions on Sunday operated by OceanGate Expeditions.

Attempts are now to recover the debris as researchers investigate why the vessel loss communications and imploded.

The big story

The submersible was never tested and approved for safety but it attempted to reach the Titanic wreckage on Sunday morning, losing contact about an hour and 45 minutes after submerging, believed to have only a 96-hour oxygen supply. That amount of oxygen was predicted to run out on Thursday morning.

The Titan Is Running Out of Oxygen. It’s A Race Against Time and Hope Is Running Thin

The missing Titan with five people aboard has mere hours left before oxygen is depleted in a race against time in a multinational search and rescue in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Rescuers are on their fifth day searching for the crew, hoping to find them alive since oxygen levels may be down by Thursday morning, depending on if the 21-foot vessel still has power and if the missing crew’s mental state is calm.

A Canadian search team using sonar buoys, reported hearing undersea noises on Tuesday and Wednesday but still could not locate the vessel. Experts still could not confirm the cause of the sound, but hoping it was the crew from the submersible.

Even if the Titan was located, retrieving it would be a huge logistical challenge.

The submersible left Sunday to visit the Titanic wreckage, but experts still do not know if it reached the site or if it’s still on the surface of the ocean. A rescue on the ocean floor would have to contend with the intense pressures and total darkness at that depth.  It may also be difficult to find the vessel aming the Titanic wreckage. If the submersible had managed to return to the surface, spotting it would be difficult in the open sea and it is bolted shut from the outside, so those inside cannot exit without help.

The latest development

  • The French research ship L’Atalante which carries a robot is one of the vessels sent to help search efforts. The ROV has a capacity to descend to 6,000 metres and it is connected to its parent ship with a cable eight kilometres (4.9 miles) long.
  • The United States Coast Guard expect to increase its surface vessel to 10 from the 5 it initally had, searching for Titan.
  • The Titan is believed to be about 1,450km (900 miles) east and 640km south of Newfoundland.

The big picture

  • The Titan is the size of a minivan and is operated by U.S.-based OceanGate Expeditions.
  • It began its descent at 8 am on Sunday but lost contact with its support ship near the end of what should have been a two-hour dive to the century-old shipwreck.
  • Pakistani and British nationals Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman, British adventurer Hamish Harding, OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush and French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, are on the Titan.