OceanGate, an American private research and ocean adventure tourism company, has been thrust into the spotlight following a recent tragedy involving its Titan submersible. On Thursday, the US Coast Guard confirmed that debris located in the Atlantic Ocean was the remains of the Titan, presumed to have caused the deaths of five individuals onboard.
OceanGate: The Company’s Beginnings and Mission
Established in 2009 by Stockton Rush, OceanGate’s purpose was “increasing access to the deep ocean through innovation of the next generation of crewed submersibles and launch platforms,” as stated on their website. Based in Everett, Washington, the firm, as of April 2023, comprised 47 employees. The company, which has secured $36.81 million in funding according to Pitchbook data, offered its clients opportunities to explore the deep ocean, with particular emphasis on the Titanic shipwreck.
OceanGate’s signature service, the Titanic expedition, took five passengers — one pilot and four crew members — to the depths of approximately 13,000 feet to observe the legendary shipwreck. Each tour would span 10 days, beginning near St. John’s city in Newfoundland, and costing a staggering $250,000 per person.
The Tragedy and The OceanGate Titan
The Titan submersible, the vessel central to this tragic incident, was specially designed for these Titanic expeditions. Unlike a submarine, the submersible was launched into the water from a separate ship, lacked a power port, and was smaller in size. Its controls mirrored those of a video game, using a similar approach to some US Navy submarine designs.
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Tragically, on the last expedition, the Titan was lost, and five passengers, including the company’s CEO Stockton Rush, British businessman Hamish Harding, and members of one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families, Shahzada and Suleman Dawood, along with leading Titanic expert Paul-Henry Nargeolet, are all presumed dead.
James Cameron’s Outlook: A Warning Unheeded
Famed director and deep-sea exploration enthusiast, James Cameron, offered an eerie perspective on the disaster. Having made 33 dives himself to the Titanic and possessing significant experience in designing submersibles, he expressed deep concern about the OceanGate Titan.
Cameron revealed that numerous top figures in the community had previously voiced concerns about the Titan, sending letters to the company warning that the submersible was too experimental to carry passengers. He found a haunting parallel between the Titanic’s fate in 1912 and the recent catastrophe — both, he noted, resulted from unheeded warnings.
The situation is profoundly distressing, according to Cameron. “For a very similar tragedy, where warnings went unheeded, to take place at the same exact site… I think is just astonishing. It’s really quite surreal,” he told ABC News.
In the wake of the tragedy, there will undoubtedly be extensive investigations into the incident, the submersible’s safety protocols, and OceanGate’s decision-making process. The world mourns the loss of five passionate explorers while contemplating the balance between human curiosity, the desire to push boundaries, and the absolute necessity of ensuring safety.