During a voyage aboard the Titan off the coast of the Bahamas in April 2019, Karl Stanley, a submersible expert, knew immediately that something was wrong: He heard a cracking noise that grew louder over the two hours it took for the Titan to sail. submersible. dive deeper than 12,000 feet.
The following day, Mr. Stanley wrote an email detailing his concerns to Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, who was also on board the Titan for the dive, urging Mr. Rush to cancel the expeditions to the wreck. of the Titanic that were planned for that summer.
“A useful thought exercise here would be to imagine removing the variables from investors, eager mission scientists, your success-hungry team, press releases already announcing this summer’s diving program,” Stanley wrote, according to a copy. from the email seen by The New York Times. “Imagine this project was self-funded and on your own schedule. Would you consider taking dozens of other people on the Titanic before you actually knew the source of those sounds?
The US Coast Guard said Thursday that a remote-controlled vehicle found Titan debris near the Titanic wreck, ending a four-day multinational search for the 22-foot vessel that had captivated people around the world. the world. Mr. Rush was piloting the Titan and was among the five people on board who died. The Titan’s last voyage would have been her 14th expedition to the Titanic wreckage.
Mr. Stanley has operated a tourist submersible in Honduras for 25 years, though his vessel descends only to about 2,000 feet, far less than the 13,000-plus feet Titan was designed for. Accompanying Mr. Stanley on his Titan dive in 2019 with Mr. Rush was OceanGate’s program manager, Joel Perry, who Mr. Stanley said in an email from him to Mr. Rush shared his concerns. on the Titan. Perry, who left OceanGate in 2019 months after the dive, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Rush had heavily touted his plans for the Titan before its first deep-sea dive in 2019. The previous year, at a conference of manned underwater vehicle specialists in New Orleans, several experts confronted Mr. Rush directly about his concerns with the Titan. in a tense exchange, Stanley said. Shortly after the conference, more than three dozen industry experts sent Mr. Rush a letter urging him to put the Titan through a certification process.
“Basically, people were attacking him in that room,” Stanley said.
Rush was determined to build a submersible with a larger capacity than other similar ships, which are metal spheres that can carry a maximum of three people, Stanley said, recalling conversations he had with Rush in person and by phone.
In the April 2019 email to Mr. Rush, Mr. Stanley said that the loud cracking sounds they had heard during their dive “sounded like a fault/defect in an area that was being acted upon by tremendous pressures and was crushed/ damaged”. He wrote that the loud crack indicated that there was “an area of the hull that was breaking apart.”
Rush never responded directly to that email, Stanley said. But he made some changes to the Titan, including building a new hull, and canceled the dives planned for that year.
Experts said one explanation for what may have caused the Titan to implode was that water seeped into where a piece of titanium it was glued to the end of the cylinder of the container. “It could have been anywhere where the carbon fiber seals to the titanium, or it could have been around the porthole,” the captain said. Alfred McLaren, a retired Navy captain and friend of Paul-Henri Nargeolet, one of the people who was aboard the Titan when it imploded this week.
“At that depth, you could have a leak that’s not much bigger than the diameter of one of your hairs and you’d be dead in a split second,” said Capt. McLaren, commander of a nuclear attack submarine. “They really wouldn’t have even known that they would have died, they would have died before they knew it.”
That the vessel imploded on the first dive of the season may have been relevant. Saltwater that had become trapped between different materials on the boat from dives in 2021 and 2022 worked its way through the fibers and softened them, making them more susceptible to a leak, experts said.