Trip to Titanic wreck: Titan's scary pre-tour agreement, safety aspects ignored

The submersible Titan (left) and the port bow railing of the Titanic (right) lies in 12,600 feet of water. Photo: Reuters

After five days of searching for the missing submersible Titan, which took five tourists to Titanic wreckage spot in the Atlantic Ocean, it's been declared that the vessel was destroyed in a catastrophic implosion. The announcement was made by OceanGate Expeditions that owned Titan and the US Coast Guard.

The vessel was lost on June 18. As per reports, the concerns about Titan's lack of adequate safety measures had emerged quite a few times in the past. For instance, they were raised by CBS channel news reporter David Poff in 2022 and by the Marine Technology Society in 2018.

Dangerous trip
The remains of the Titanic – which sank in the Atlantic Ocean in 1912 – are lying on the seabed at a depth of 3,800 m (12,500 feet) below sea-level. The hydrostatic pressure at this depth is 390 times that on the ocean surface. To resist such extremely high pressures, the outer body of Titan submersible is made of carbon fibre which is five inches thick.

The maximum depth to which Titan can reach is 4,000 m (13,123 feet). In other words, Titan is travelling almost till its maximum range.

Many people have the notion that Titan is a submarine. It is, instead, a submersible, which can dive to the deep parts of the ocean and ascend back to the surface. However, a submersible cannot be made to travel towards a port on the shore or to some other part of the ocean.

Titan always functions from a mother ship and is made water-tight with 17 locks, which cannot be opened from inside. Travellers aboard the submersible can watch the sights outside through a glass window.

The timeline
Titan was taken to the area in North Atlantic where the wreck of the Titanic is located on a ship named Polar Prince. Subsequently, Titan was shifted to a raft named Nadir, from where it dived to the depths of the Atlantic at 1.30 pm IST on Sunday.

However, after one hour and 45 minutes, Tiran lost contact with the mother ship. Communication with Polar Prince was arranged to enable sending of messages every 15 minutes.

Titan was expected to reach the wreck of the Titanic within three hours. The tourists on the submersible usually spent several hours watching the sunken ship, clicking pictures and shooting videos. The submersible could accommodate five people, including the pilot, and the ticket price was US Dollars (USD) 250,000 (around Rs 2 crore).

Incidentally, Titan had lost contact with the mother ship during previous expeditions also, including the trip undertaken by CBS reporter David Pog in 2022. As GPS does not function in the depths of the ocean, Titan sent text messages to the mother ship every 15 minutes. During Pog’s trip, communication had been stalled for two-and-a-half hours. Moreover, Pog could not approach anywhere near the Titanic.

Apart from Pog, TV comedy writer Mike Royce also had a similar experience during an earlier trip.

Scary agreement
Among the most hair-raising aspects of the Titan trip is a consent agreement signed by the travellers before the journey, said Pog in his report. The agreement prepared by OceanGate says that the experimental submersible had received no clearance from a government agency or regulatory body.

Travellers on Titan faced the risk of injuries, mental health issues and even loss of life, it adds.

Years ago, Marine Technology Society – a collective of experts in the field of ocean exploration which was formed 60 years ago – also wrote to the CEO of OceanGate raising similar concerns. ‘The Times’ reported that in the letter, the society had expressed apprehensions over the trip to the wreck of the Titanic.
However, OceanGate responded to such criticism by claiming that the Titan was built to higher standards than those stipulated by these agencies.
No ‘Plan B’
Yet another grave drawback pointed by critics of the Titanic trip such a Pog was that it lacked an escape mechanism in the event of trouble. They said that if the submersible got stuck at any part of the ocean or developed a leak, the travellers had no means to escape to safety.

Moreover, Titan dived to a depth of 12,500 feet below the ocean surface to reach the Titanic while even the most advanced submarines of the US Navy carried out rescue missions only up to depth of 2,000 feet, making search for the missing submersible a hugely challenging task.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.