A submersible craft that took tourists to see the wreckage of the Titanic 2.4 miles beneath the surface of the North Atlantic has gone missing. Rescue efforts are underway, but in the meantime there is increasing scrutiny over the safety of the craft, called Titan, and the company that runs it, OceanGate.
Six months ago, in November 2022, CBS Sunday Morning aired a report by reporter David Pogue on OceanGate and its CEO Stockton Rush, in which he was invited by the to join an expedition.
In the report, Pogue nervously reads the liability waiver:
"… An experimental submersible vessel that has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body and could result in physical injury disability emotional trauma or death." Where do I sign?
And Pogue seems alarmed at the technology used by the vessel.
POGUE: And yet I couldn't help noticing how many pieces of the sub seemed improvised.
RUSH: We can use these off-the-shelf components. I got these from Camper World. We run the whole thing with this game controller.
POGUE: Come on!
POGUE: It seems like this is like this submersible has some elements of MacGyver-y jerryrigged-ness. I mean you're putting construction pipes as ballast.
RUSH: I don't know if I'd use that description of it, but there's certain things that you want to be buttoned down. So the pressure vessel is not MacGyver at all because that's where we work with Boeing and NASA and the University of Washington. Everything else can fail — your thrusters can go, your lights can go — you're still going to be safe.
The game controller has been identified as a $30 Logitech F710 PC gamepad.
And yet, on Pogue's trip, the first attempt at a Titanic dive was canceled due to rough seas. And the "consolation" expedition to the continental shelf was aborted at 37 feet below the surface because of technical issues.
When seas calmed enough to try for a second attempt at the Titanic, the craft submerged to the ocean floor, but couldn't find the Titanic.
There's no GPS underwater, so the surface ship is supposed to guide the sub to the shipwreck by sending text messages. But on this dive, communication somehow broke down, and the sub never found the wreck.
In fact, Pogue tweeted yesterday that not only was the vessel unable to to find the Titanic, it was lost to the surface ship for five hours! The company shut off the ship's internet to keep Pogue from communicating about the crisis while it was going on.
By the way, the expedition was successful on its third attempt at the Titanic.
Hoping for the safe return of all passengers!