Inside the missing Titanic exploration sub
Emmy-winning journalist David Pogue visited the Titan submersible for a passenger dive in 2022 for CBS Sunday Morning.
After days on board the surface ship, the crew finally announced they had a weather window — they were cleared to dive the 13,000 feet to view the most famous shipwreck in history.
Mr Pogue says in the episode that aired in November 2022: “After our sixth day at sea, the weather cleared. The dive was a go…but that was the last of the good news.”
The invisible tether between the submersible and the surface ship had, somehow, become severed.
Mr Pogue said: “There’s no GPS, so the surface ship is supposed to guide the sub to the shipwreck by sending text messages. But on this dive, communications somehow broke down. The sub never found the wreck.”
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David Pogue and Stockton Rush on board the Titan in 2022
What we know about the Titan
One of the passengers confirms: “We were lost. We were lost for two and a half hours,” and Mr Pogue said that Stockton Rush, founder of operator OceanGate — and one of the five people currently missing — would “offer those passengers a free do-over next year”.
It is unclear whether any of the other passengers currently missing were on board with Mr Pogue for his near-miss last year.
That trip, however, returned safely to shore. Speaking to CBS News on Monday night. Mr Pogue spoke of the experience, his anxiety ahead of the trip and his concerns for those on board.
This image from inside the Titan shows how cramped it is for five people
He said: “I stayed up all night the night before my dive. I’d never done anything that could kill me before and I was really, really scared.
“Then I had a conversation with the CEO and he said you’re worried about the wrong things. Like getting back to the surface, running out of air – those we got covered.
“The things you should be worried about are really rare things like getting snagged in abandoned fishing nets that are miles long in the North Atlantic, or a leak, which is also really unlikely.
“So I don’t know what to say [about the current situation]. It sounds bad.”
What we know about the locations
He detailed the “janky” set-up inside the vessel: “This submersible was made from off-the-shelf improvised parts. For example, you control it with an X Box Game Controller.
“Some of the ballast are these abandoned lead pipes from construction sites and the way you ditch is everybody gets to one side of the sub, and they roll off a shelf.
“But the guy who built the sub, Stockton Rush, told me yeah, that stuff’s all kind of janky but the important thing, like the capsule that contains the people and the air, that was co-designed with NASA and the University of Washington, the part that keeps you alive is rock solid.”
However, he said, that makes the fact that it hasn’t returned to surface even more worrying: “This thing has seven different ways of returning to the surface. It has different kinds of ballasts that can let go, it has an inflatable air bladder and has propellers.
“So why isn’t it at the surface? There is no radio and no GPS that works underwater. So you really are on your own when you’re in this thing. So why haven’t they come to the surface?
“One possibility is they got snagged on something. And another possibility is that there was a leak, which is very unlikely but if there is a leak it was over quickly.”
The sub prepares for launch
The sub is launched from its platform to perform its dive
Mr Pogue also detailed the three different oxygen systems which make up the 96 hours of oxygen on board — “there are carbon dioxide scrubbers, exactly the same thing you would have in a spacecraft; then there are these emergency scrubbers that look like fly strips they hang from the ceiling and convert C02 to oxygen.
“And then if those get exhausted there are actual scuba oxygen tanks under the floor panels that they can put on.”
He added: “There’s a rudimentary toilet, which amounts to little more than a couple ziplock bags. And of course they all brought snacks.”
He said it was “the size of a minivan” inside the 6.7 metre (22ft) craft, weighing 10,432kg.
The vessel is capable of diving to depths of 4,000 metres (13,120ft) “with a comfortable safety margin”, according to OceanGate.
It uses four electric thrusters to move around, and has a battery of cameras, lights and scanners to explore its environment.
OceanGate says Titan’s viewport is “the largest of any deep diving submersible” and that its technology provides an “unrivalled view” of the deep ocean.
It uses Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite technology to communicate, though it is unclear if it was the cause of the loss of contact.
OceanGate tweeted last week: “Without any cell towers in the middle of the ocean, we are relying on @Starlink to provide the communications we require throughout this year’s 2023 Titanic expedition.”