BOSTON, June 24 (AP) Talking to people aboard the Titan submersible, they may mention a technical glitch: a failure in the propulsion system or a loss of communication with those on the surface. Maybe there is a problem with the balance weight on board.
They may also mention OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush, who died this week on a fatal trip. Past passengers have described him as both a meticulous planner and an overconfident trailblazer.
After the Titanic’s deadly implosion near the wreck of the Titanic on Sunday, some of those involved in the company’s deep-sea expedition described experiences that foreshadowed tragedy and recalled their decision to dive as “a little naive.”
But others expressed confidence and said they felt “well taken care of” at nearly 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) below sea level.
“I knew 100 percent that this was going to happen,” said Brian Wade, a cameraman for Discovery Channel’s “Uncharted Expeditions,” who has been suffering from an upset stomach since the submarine went missing on Sunday.
In May 2021, Weed conducted a Titan test dive in Puget Sound, Washington, in preparation for the first-ever sinking Titanic expedition. Weed and his colleagues were preparing to join the Ocean Gate Expedition later that summer to photograph the famous shipwreck.
They soon ran into a problem: the propulsion system stopped working. The computer is unresponsive. Communication lost.
OceanGate CEO Rush tried to restart the ship on the touchscreen and troubleshoot.
“You could tell he was flustered and not happy with his performance,” Wade said. “But he tried to downplay it, tried to make excuses.”
They’re only 100 feet (30 meters) deep in calm water, which begs the question: “How does this thing get to 12,500 feet—do we want to get on a boat?” Weed said.
After the voyage was aborted, the production company hired a consultant from the US Navy to review the Titan.
Wade said he provided a generally favorable report, but cautioned that not enough research had been done on the Titan’s carbon-fiber hull. There was also an engineering problem with the hull not maintaining its effectiveness over the course of multiple dives.
Weed said Rush was a charismatic salesman who truly believed in the submersible’s technology and was willing to risk his life for it.
“It’s looking less and less that we’ll be the first to film Titanic — we might be the tenth,” Weed said of the possible Titanic expedition. “I feel like every time (“the boat) goes down, it’s going to get weaker and weaker. It’s a bit like playing Russian roulette. “
For work projects, Weed has swam with sharks, rappelled into remote caves, and snowshoeed across Siberia. But he and his colleagues quit diving and headed for the Titanic.
“I don’t feel very good about it,” he said. “It was a really tough choice.”
“When my wife first proposed this (idea) to me, I said to her, ‘Well, this sounds like a fun way to get killed,'” Rice said. “I knew there were (risks). I always felt I was well taken care of.”
Rice said he has taken three trips with OceanGate in the waters near New York City and that the company takes safety very seriously.
“The bottom line is that it’s amazing how well it’s going,” Rice said of diving the Titanic in 2022. “It was a 10-hour journey. I went down from sea level to two and a half miles and back to sea level. The pressure in my ears never changed. I didn’t get the same feeling as I did in the elevator in New York. For me That said, it’s an amazing achievement.”
Rice said he was in a “different state of mind” on the expedition because he was so involved.
“You’re never hungry. You’re never thirsty. There’s a bathroom on board. It’s never used,” he said. “You just become a different person. You even know you might die, but it doesn’t bother you.”
Rice said he did notice some issues with the Titans, though he wasn’t sure it was all glitches.
For example, communication doesn’t always work, like a cell phone out of service. When they reached the bottom of the sea near the sunken Titanic, the compass of the Titanic also began to “run wildly”.
“I don’t know if it’s an equipment failure or if it’s a magnetic difference at two and a half miles,” he said.
Wind, fog and waves were the stated reasons, but Weisman wondered whether the submersible’s readiness was also a factor.
One night, while smoking a cigar, Rush told Weisman that he had bought carbon fiber for the Titan’s hull at a deep discount because it was past the plane’s shelf life, Weissman said. But Rush assured him everything was safe.
“I really feel like there are two Stockton rushes,” Weissman said. “He’s a great team leader, efficient and gets the job done. And this cocky, confident guy, to hell with everyone else, I’ll do things my way. That’s me out the stern smoking a cigar The one I saw.”
But Weisman said he was also a strong leader. He recalled Rush leading lengthy planning sessions and urging anyone interested to read a book he left in the ship’s lounge called “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Done.” If the repair is complicated, Rush will tell the person assigned to it to pause for five minutes after completing the repair to make sure it’s done correctly, Weissman said.
Looking back, Weissman believes Rush had a fatal flaw: an overconfidence in his engineering skills and a belief that he was a pioneer in a field that others were not because they played by the rules.
“But in the end, for sure, fatal flaw is what he will be remembered for — even though he was a three-dimensional being like everyone else,” Weissman said.
“You have to be a little crazy to do something like this,” he said.
His diving partners included Rush, French diver and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nagiolet and two passengers from the United Kingdom.
“Imagine a metal pipe a few meters long with a metal plate as the floor. You can’t stand it. You can’t kneel. Everyone sits next to or on top of each other,” says Leuber. “You can’t be claustrophobic.”
During the 2.5-hour descent and ascent, lights were turned off to save energy and the only illumination came from glow sticks, he said.
The dive was repeatedly delayed due to battery and counterweight issues. The flight takes a total of 10.5 hours.
He described Rush as a tinkerer trying to dive with available resources, but in hindsight, he said, “it was kind of fishy.”
“Looking back, I was a little naive,” Leuber said. (Associated Press)
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