Noted Hollywood director and Titanic researcher James Cameron has likened the tragic loss of the submarine Titan to the very thing that may have led the Titanic to its own demise, overconfidence leading to disaster.
Cameron, who directed the famous Oscar-winning blockbuster “Titanic,” told ABC News Thursday that he saw parallels between the sinking of the British passenger liner in 1912 and the sinking of the submarine specially designed to recover the sunken ship’s remains. visits.
“I’m struck by the similarity of the disaster to the Titanic itself, where the captain was repeatedly warned of ice ahead of his ship, and yet he steamed full speed into an ice field on a moonless night,” Cameron said. “And many people died as a result and for us a similar tragedy where warnings were not heeded to take place in exactly the same place.”
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Cameron, who is an underwater designer himself and has designed craft that can dive three times deeper than where the Titanic rests, called the Titan’s carbon fiber construction “fundamentally flawed”.
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, who was one of five passengers to die on the submarine, had previously defended the decision to manufacture the Titan with the material, saying he believed a submarine made of carbon fiber would have a better strength-to-buoyancy ratio. have titanium.
Oceangate Expeditions via Reuters
Cameron said he is especially surprised at how the modern-day tragedy unfolded given that so much diving is happening around the world without incident.
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The global submarine safety standard is the “gold standard,” especially given that no one has ever been killed in a submarine to date, Cameron said. While there were some accidents in the 1960s, no major incidents have occurred since then and standards have improved dramatically since then, he added.
The Russian submarines Cameron traveled on to see the Titanic were built with “very well understood design methodologies” and were piloted by pilots with a “spotless track record,” Cameron said, adding that he always had “great confidence” in those ships. despite the hostile environment surrounding the Titanic.
Other deep-diving environments, which may contain marine life and other organisms but are usually open, don’t pose the same hazards as the Titanic shipwreck site, which offers plenty of opportunity for a submarine to become entangled, Cameron said.
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Cameron described an eight- to 10-story structure with overhanging metal — essentially a “twisted mess.”
Xavier Desmier/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
However, since Cameron always dived with a two-submarine system, in which another submarine is submerged in tandem, he was confident that if they got stuck, there would be life support, communications, and power.
“We always felt we were pretty safe,” he said.
Chris Goldfinger, a marine geologist at Oregon State University who has completed at least two dozen scuba dives in the Pacific Ocean, also compared the Titanic sinking to the Titan implosion, describing the latter to ABC News as “inadequate preparation.” vehicle.”
The Titan, operated by OceanGate, a private company that provides crewed submarines and expertise for commercial, research and military applications, had no other submarine in the area or the amount of backup systems other ships use, Goldfinger said.
Members of the deep-diving community have long been sounding the alarm about the safety measures for the Titan, Cameron said.
“This is a mature art and many people in the community were very concerned about this submarine,” he said. “And some of the top players in the deep immersion engineering community even wrote letters to the company saying that what they were doing was too experimental to carry passengers and needed to be certified and so forth.”
In 2018, a former OceanGate employee alleged in a counterclaim that he was fired for raising concerns about quality control and testing potential flaws in the experimental submarine. OceanGate had initially sued the engineer and submarine pilot for breach of contract, fraud and misappropriation of trade secrets – all claims he denied.
In the complaint, OceanGate also alleged that the employee “was not an engineer and was not hired or asked to perform any engineering services on the Titan,” according to OceanGate. The associated press.
The dispute was settled out of court. OceanGate has not commented on the Titan’s safety since the search for the missing submarine began on Sunday.
In a statement in 2021, OceanGate said, “Built and designed in consultation with expert engineers and manufacturers, Titan includes multiple, redundant safety systems.”
Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images, FILE
Most submarines have “multiple ways to save themselves”, such as the ability to detach the orb holding the passengers from the rest of the ship, allowing it to float to the surface. redundancy and self-reliance,” he said.
“The same kind of classic thing that got the Titanic into trouble in the first place was too much faith in yourself and too much faith in an unprepared vehicle,” Goldfinger said.
Five people were aboard the Titan when it made its final dive: OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son, Suleman Dawood, British billionaire Hamish Harding and celebrated Titanic researcher and former commander in the French Navy , Paul Henri Nargeolet.
Through their shared passion, Cameron was friends with Nargeolet for 25 years, calling him by his nickname “PH” when referring to the five victims who lost their lives on the submarine.
Nargeolet was a “legendary French dive pilot,” said Cameron, describing the dive community as “small.”
On Thursday, OceanGate issued a statement that all five passengers had died.
“We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, are sadly lost,” OceanGate said in a statement.
“These men were true explorers who shared a clear spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans,” the statement continued. “Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families at this tragic time. We grieve for the loss of lives and joy they brought to all they knew.”