The submarine that went missing while exploring the wreck of the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean earlier this week was riddled with red flags prior to disappearing, video of the vessel shows.
The missing OceanGate submarine, known as the Titan, is a 23,000 pound Cyclops-class submarine vessel that can travel up to almost 2.5 miles below the surface. The vessel features a viewport window on one end for its Titanic explorations.
The Titan, which is about the size of a van and has a life support system that can last 95 hours, is designed to transport only five individuals at a time and can work in conjunction with smaller ships. As a result, OceanGate has explained that the Titan does not require a “man-rated crane or A-frame” for launching or recovering the vessel.
For $250,000 per person, the dangerous and costly expedition is far from perfect. Over the past year, the Titan displayed a number of red flags leading up to this week’s catastrophic incident.
While OceanGate boasts the only “integrated real-time health monitoring system” on a submersible vessel and is designed to provide advanced warning if an incident occurred with the hull of the vessel, the Titan is designed with “off-the-shelf technology” in order for easy operation and part replacement.
During a CBS News report last year, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush showed David Pogue, a CBS correspondent, how a video game controller is responsible for running “the whole thing.” CBS video footage also showed how the Titan is sealed externally with 17 bolts, with no way for passengers to get themselves out of the vessel in the case of an emergency.
The submarine also lacks a navigation system. Instead, the vessel operates based on text message guidance provided from a ship on the surface of the water.
Last year, Rush acknowledged his concerns regarding the possibility of objects preventing the submersible vessel from returning to the surface of the water.
“What I worry about most are things that will stop me from being able to get to the surface. Overhangs, fish nets, entanglement hazards,” he said. “And, that’s just a technique, piloting technique. It’s pretty clear — if it’s an overhang, don’t go under it. If there is a net, don’t go near it. So, you can avoid those if you are just slow and steady.”
Asked about general safety concerns at the time, Rush indicated that he did not believe the underwater voyage to the Titanic was very dangerous.
“If you look at submersible activity over the last three decades, there hasn’t even been a major injury, let alone a fatality,” he said. “What worries us is not once you’re underwater.”
According to the Daily Mail, Rush is one of five individuals in the missing submersible vessel. The news outlet reported that while Rush explained in an interview that Titanic explorers would be provided with enough oxygen in the event of an emergency and would be safe in the submarine, he did not appear to be cognizant of the risk level involved in exploring the Titanic.
“You know, there’s a limit. You know, at some point, safety just is pure waste,” he said. “I mean, if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed.”