The tragic fate of the OceanGate Expeditions Bathyscaphe

The 10-ton Titan, owned by OceanGate Expeditions, disappeared from radar on the morning of June 19 about an hour and 45 minutes after launching off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. On June 22, 2023, the wreckage of a tourist underwater vehicle with five passengers heading to the wreck of the Titanic was discovered (the wreckage of the famous ship is located at a depth of 4 km under the Atlantic Ocean, 60 km from Newfoundland, Canada). After rescuers linked the wreckage to the missing vessel, OceanGate announced that the passengers on board the ship were presumed dead. The crew included the Director General of the OceanGate expeditions, a British businessman, a French diver and researcher, as well as a father and son from Pakistan.

OceanGate Expeditions is the only company that offers underwater tours at a price of $250,000. When it became known that the ship was missing, a heated discussion of the news began on the Internet. And as it always happens, with every new detail, memes began to appear: about the bathyscaphe itself, about tourists, about the curse of the Titanic. In fact, there is no curse, and the Titanic is not to blame for the disaster. The banal neglect of security measures is to blame, and partly bad luck. After all, as it became known, the bathyscaphe did not pass proper tests and safety checks.

This story is another important reminder that you should never neglect security measures. Especially when diving to extreme depths.



Stockton Rush was the CEO of OceanGate Inc, founded in 2009. According to the company's website, OceanGate is a privately held company headquartered in Everett, Washington. OpenGate is engaged in "expanding access to the ocean depths through the innovation of the next generation of crewed underwater vehicles and launch platforms." The company states: "Our fleet of five underwater vehicles is capable of diving to a depth of 4,000 meters and is a unique platform for exploring the ocean depths." OceanGate planned to reach the crash site in 2018, but postponed operations due to bad weather conditions.

OceanGate has been attempting missions since at least 2017 and successfully reached the Titanic wreck site for the first time in 2021 and then again in 2022. According to the company's website, 18 expeditions were planned for the summer of 2023. The missions take up to 10 days, eight of which are at sea, and cost passengers $250,000 each. Expeditions of five people usually include three paid passengers, as well as two crew members leading the group. The only known passenger among the five missing is Hamish Harding, a British businessman and pilot whose family confirmed he was on the expedition on Monday. In social media posts on Sunday, Harding said the group had reached a location above the Titanic and planned to dive at 4 a.m. on Monday. "This week's expedition will probably be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023, because Newfoundland has experienced a historically harsh winter," Harding said on Instagram. A search and rescue team was dispatched on Monday morning after the group was reported missing.



"Titan is the world's only carbon fiber submersible capable of submerging five people to a depth of 4,000 meters (13,123 feet). This is an underwater vehicle that the company uses to explore the wreck of the RMS Titanic during annual expeditions. Titan's unique ability to carry five people allows several mission specialists, scientists and content experts to share a unique deep ocean diving experience.

The modern vessel, designed by OceanGate Inc. in collaboration with experts from NASA, Boeing and the University of Washington, made its underwater debut in 2018. Thanks to the innovative use of modern materials, Titanium has become lighter and stronger. Spacious and more comfortable than any other deep—sea submarine exploring the ocean today," the company's website says.

The interior of the underwater vehicle is well lit and comfortable for five people. The internal pressure remains constant, so tourists do not need to go through the decompression process at the end of the dive. The air inside a submarine is processed in the same way as the air inside a spaceship. The internal temperature is usually only a few degrees higher than the water temperature outside, so it is recommended to wear several layers of clothing during the dive.

Titan, the ship that sank, is one of the manned underwater vehicles that the company boasts about. According to the company, the Titan is "lighter in weight and more economical to mobilize than any other deep-sea vehicle." It is used for site surveys, inspection studies, and data collection. With its "groundbreaking engineering" and "standard technology", Titan has a "unique advantage" over other deep-sea submarines and is easier to operate. In addition, it also has real-time hull health monitoring (RTM), which, according to the company, is an unsurpassed safety feature that assesses the integrity of the hull during each dive. It also provides an early warning.

Titan, according to the company's website, made successful flights in 2021 and 2022. In 2022, CBS reporter David Pogue ventured aboard Titan to see the Titanic. Before diving, he had to sign a document stating that the underwater vehicle was "experimental" and “had not been approved by any regulatory authority.”

In the video, Rush points to the pipelines inside the ship, saying that he bought them from the Camping World residential motorhome supplier, and says that "we control all of this" with a gamepad. The vessel uses construction pipes as ballast. Rush explains that the pressure vessel, which maintains the pressure and air quality to support human life for many miles underwater, is "not at all artisanal" and was developed with the help of Boeing and NASA.

The company uses Starlink for its maritime communications. "The Titan is the only submarine with five passengers capable of diving to the depth of the Titanic, which is half the depth of the Atlantic Ocean," Rush told CBC last year. "There are no switches and objects that you can stumble upon, we only have one button to turn on the device. It shouldn't require a lot of skills. Everything else is done with touch screens and computers, so you really become part of the machine."

The Unpredictable Atlantic

OceanGate is not the only company engaged in underwater tourism. Bluefish also reportedly offers Titanic tours. Back in 2015, it was said that the company charges $60,000 for a trip to the Titanic in the period 2019-2020. Bluefish director Steve Sims said at the time: “Titanic really captures the minds of a wide crowd. And more people have been in space than have seen the Titanic.”

The OceanGate expedition offered tourists to try themselves as different mission specialists. Roles may vary depending on the expedition:

  • Sonar and Laser scanning specialist
  • Sonar and laser scanning of shipwrecks and sunken artifacts
  • Photography and videography
  • Control of on-board cameras
  • Communication and tracking
  • Observation and documentation of artifacts or marine life
  • Immersion preparation
  • Maintenance of the underwater vehicle after diving operations
  • Diving
  • Media
  • Assistance in operational dive planning

Catastrophic explosion
A submarine pilot hired to evaluate the Titanic submersible warned in 2018 that its hull monitoring system would detect failure only "often milliseconds before the explosion."

The wreckage of the Titan was found about 500 m from the wreck of the Titanic. Coast Guard officials said they are still investigating what happened to the device. The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Wednesday that they picked up suspicious underwater sounds using sonar buoys, sensitive microphones tied to buoys dropped from planes flying over the search area.

Earlier, Rolling Stone magazine reported that search engines on a Canadian plane found "pops" at 30-minute intervals coming from the area where the underwater vehicle disappeared. An expert in submarine search and rescue said the sounds may indicate that the vessel is closer to the surface than initially feared. But the Coast Guard said Thursday that "there doesn't seem to be any connection between the noises and the location on the seabed."

If the rescue teams managed to find the ship, they would still have to come up with a strategy to pull the bathyscaphe out of such depth, which no one had done before. Very few vessels can dive to such a depth, and certainly not divers.

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