A year after the Titan’s tragic dive, deep-sea explorers vow to pursue ocean’s mysteries

PORTLAND, Maine — The deadly implosion of an experimental submarine bound for the Titanic’s deep-sea grave last June has not dulled the desire for further ocean exploration, despite lingering questions about the disaster.

Tuesday marks one year since Titan occurred disappeared along the way to the historic wreck site in the North Atlantic Ocean. After a five-day search that attracted attention around the world, authorities said the ship had been destroyed and all five people on board had died.

Concerns have been raised about whether the Titan was destined for disaster due to its unconventional design and the maker’s refusal to submit to independent audits that are standard in the industry. The US Coast Guard quickly convened a high-level inquiry about what happened, but officials say the investigation is taking longer than the initial 12-month time frame, and a scheduled public hearing to discuss their findings won’t take place for at least another two months.

In the meantime, deep-sea research continues. The Georgia-based company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic plans to visit the sunken ocean liner in July using remotely operated vehicles, and an Ohio real estate billionaire has said he is planning a trip to the shipwreck in a two-person submarine in 2026. Scores of ocean researchers told The Associated Press they are confident undersea exploration can continue safely in a post-Titan world.

“It is a desire of the scientific community to get into the ocean,” said Greg Stone, a veteran ocean researcher and friend of Titan operator Stockton Rush, who died in the implosion. “I haven’t noticed any difference in the desire to get into the ocean and explore.”

OceanGate, a company co-founded by Rush and owner of the submarine, suspended operations in early July. A company spokesperson declined to comment.

David Concannon, a former OceanGate adviser, said he will celebrate the anniversary privately with a group of people involved with the submersible company or expeditions over the years, including scientists, volunteers and mission specialists. Many of them, including those on the Titan support ship Polar Prince, have not been interviewed by the Coast Guard, he said.

“The fact is that they are isolated and in a liminal space,” he said in an email last week. “Stockton Rush has been vilified and so has everyone associated with OceanGate. I wasn’t even there and I received death threats. We support each other and just wait for an interview. The world moves on… but the families and those most affected are still living with this tragedy every day.”

Titan has been recording the Titanic’s decay and the underwater ecosystem surrounding the sunken ocean liner during annual voyages since 2021.

The vessel made its last dive on June 18, 2023, a Sunday morning, and lost contact with the support vessel about two hours later. When it was reported too late that afternoon, rescuers brought ships, planes and other equipment to the area, about 700 kilometers south of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The U.S. Navy notified the Coast Guard that day of an acoustic data anomaly that was “consistent with an implosion or explosion” when communications between the Polar Prince and Titan were lost. a senior naval official later told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive technology.

Any glimmer of hope that remained of finding the crew alive was dashed on June 22, when the Coast Guard announced that debris had been found near the Titanic on the ocean floor. Authorities have since recovered the submarine’s intact end cap, debris and suspected human remains from the site.

In addition to Rush, the implosion killed two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood; British adventurer Hamish Harding; and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

Harding and Nargeolet were members of The Explorers Club, a professional association dedicated to research, exploration and resource conservation.

“Then, as now, it affected us deeply on a personal level,” the group’s president, Richard Garriott, said in an interview last week. “We knew not only all the people involved, but even all the previous divers, support teams, people who worked on all these ships – they were all members of this club or well within our network.”

Garriott believes that even if the Titan had not imploded, the proper rescue equipment would not have arrived quickly enough. The tragedy caught everyone from the Coast Guard to the ships on site off guard, underscoring the importance of developing detailed search and rescue plans ahead of any expedition, he said. His organization has since created a task force to help others do just that.

“That’s what we’ve really tried to correct, to make sure we know exactly who to call and exactly what materials need to be collected,” he said.

Garriott believes the world is in a new golden age of exploration, thanks to technological advances that have opened frontiers and provided new tools to more deeply study places already visited. The Titanic tragedy hasn’t tarnished that, he said.

Veteran deep-sea explorer Katy Croff Bell agrees. Titan’s implosion reinforced the importance of following industry standards and conducting rigorous testing, but in the industry as a whole, “the safety record for this has been very good for decades,” said Bell, president of the Ocean Discovery League, a non-governmental organization. profit organization. organization that focuses on making deep-sea research cheaper and more accessible.

Garriott said there will be a memorial celebration for the Titan victims this week in Portugal during the annual Global Exploration Summit.

“Progress continues,” he said. “I actually feel very comfortable and confident that we can move forward now.”


Ramer reported from Concord, New Hampshire.