OceanGate, the company behind the doomed submersible that imploded during a voyage to the Titanic wreckage, announced on Thursday that it has “suspended all exploration and commercial operations.”
The decision comes days after pieces of the destroyed submersible were hauled ashore in Canada, providing the first glimpse of the vessel since its dramatic demise.
While tragic, the implosion was not surprising to some experts, including Rob McCallum, who warned OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush about the dangers of his flawed Titan submersible years before the fatal expedition.
“You can’t cut corners in the deep,” McCallum told Rush, according to The New Yorker. “It’s not about being a disruptor. It’s about the laws of physics.”
Knowing McCallum had experience running commercial trips to the Titanic, Rush asked him to run his own Titanic expeditions – but McCallum was concerned about the safety of Rush’s operation.
“Everyone was drinking Kool-Aid and saying how cool they were with a Sony PlayStation,” McCallum said. “And I said at the time, ‘Does Sony know that it’s been used for this application? Because, you know, this is not what it was designed for.’ And now you have the hand controller talking to a Wi-Fi unit, which is talking to a black box, which is talking to the sub’s thrusters. There were multiple points of failure.”
McCallum said he was stunned that the submersible was operated using Bluetooth, adding that “every sub in the world has hardwired controls for a reason—that if the signal drops out, you’re not f-cked.”
During a test dive, McCallum said the submersible got stuck at around twenty-five feet “and we had to sit there for a few hours while they worked it out.”
When Rush decided against having the vessel classed by a marine-certification agency, McCallum officially withdrew his support for the project.
“The minute that I found out that he was not going to class the vehicle, that’s when I said, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t be involved,’” McCallum said, urging Rush to reconsider working with the class society.
“Stockton didn’t like that,” McCallum said. “He didn’t like to be told that he was on the fringe.”
Eventually, word traveled that Rush was planning paid trips to the Titanic.
“People would ring me, and say, ‘We’ve always wanted to go to Titanic. What do you think?’ And I would tell them, ‘Never get in an unclassed sub. I wouldn’t do it, and you shouldn’t, either,’” McCallum said.