NEWS AND OPINION: A thread runs through the Titanic saga all way from the original disaster when the liner sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg to the present catastrophe. The wife of the deep-sea exploration boss, Stockton Rush, 61, who managed OceanGate Expeditions which owned Titan the five-passenger submersible, is the great-great granddaughter of Ida and Isidor Straus, both of whom died on the Titanic.
Ida refused to get into a lifeboat, preferring to stay with her husband. She gave her fur coat to the couple’s maid, Ellen Bird, who got into a lifeboat and survived. Ida and Isidor went down with the Titanic holding hands. His body was found; she was not.
This article was written on the day of the news media report of the implosion of the deep-sea submersible called Titan (23rd June 2023). There have been some follow-up additions.
James Cameron, the director of the 1997 movie Titanic said that he was struck by the similarities in the implosion of Titan and the sinking of Titanic. In both disasters, warnings went unheeded. The dangers of the icebergs were not taken seriously enough. The novel construction of Titan meant that it was not approved by the regulatory authorities. It was an experimental vehicle made from spun carbon fibre and titanium. Cameron said that “many people in the [deep sea submersible business] were very concerned about this sub”.
It seems that the carbon fibre section broke but they found one intact titanium section. It has been suggested that the carbon fibre became delaminated allowing water ingress, which weakened it. It is also said that the composite material of the center section was too thin at 5 inches.
This caused the vehicle to implode; the weight of the water crushed it. The word ‘implode’ means to be destroyed inwardly as opposed to ‘explode’ meaning outward movement. Death would have been near instantaneous.
The two disasters occurred at the same place. And their wreckage is also at the same place with Titan’s debris coming to rest on the ocean floor about 500 meters from the Titanic.
It indicates that the center section made of carbon fibre failed as it was in bits while they found the end sections intact – the titanium hemispheres. The hull was extended to allow for paying tourists.
Cameron said that he knew all along that the submersible was dodgy and he suspected that Titan had imploded well before the news broke.
Cameron also believes that the passengers knew that they were likely to die as Titan had warning systems which probably sounded indicating that the hull was breaking under the pressure. Rob McCallum (see below) believed that having an alarm system was pointless because it would be too late when it provided a warning.
HMS Titanic is a gravesite
The second issue that I have is that HMS Titanic sitting on the ocean floor at 3,784 meters down is a gravesite. Should it not be respected as such and be left entirely alone? It is disrespectful to constantly visit it and to allow commercial enterprises to make a lot of money based on visits to it. It has become a tourist location! For heaven’s sake, where is the respect and sensitivity?
At the very least visits should be severely restricted.
Why the fascination?
The third reason why the commercial visits to the Titanic was and is a folly is because there is an unjustified fascination with the ship. It is based on hype, news media and Cameron’s film. It is a feeding frenzy of self-indulgent, exploitative voyeurism. A macabre, ghoulish fascination with a wreck in which more than 1,500 died. It truly is a grave. It would be nice to think we could curb our obsessive curiosity with this ship and let the deceased passengers and crew who went down with it to rest in peace. May they RIP and that now applies to the five passengers of the Titan who died within a fraction of second.
Note: Paul Theroux writing for The Sunday Times heads his article with: “Humanity is fascinated with catastrophe. The wish to witness it [the Titanic wreck] was a fatal attraction”. Perhaps the fascination originates in the pleasure we feel when we have been spared an early, horrendous death. We are special. We desire to be special.
- The US Coastguard is to lead an investigation into the sub disaster. Next day: the Canadian police are investigating.
- Secret US Navy underwater microphones detected the implosion.
- Online gamblers made thousands of dollars in bets on Titanic search and rescue operation.
- And the teenager’s son of the Pakistani billionaire who died on the submersible did not want to go on the trip, says his aunt. He agreed to do it as a bonding exercise with his father who also died in the implosion.
A consultant to OceanGate, Rob McCallum who decided to leave the business, said:
“There’s a line where self-confidence crosses into arrogance…and Stockton Rush (the founder of OceanGate) crossed it. He ran a toxic safety culture where if a concern was raised, he would get rid of the person raising it.”
You remember that recent catastrophic incident in which a rusty boat carrying 730 migrants from North Africa to Italy sank. It is believed that more than 500 people died. As I understand it, a tiny fraction of the millions spent on trying to save the lives of the explorers in the Titan submersible were spent on trying to save the lives of these immigrants. It is a stark reminder of the way of the world. Clearly different lives have different values. It’s a form of racism. I do not think that humankind can go on behaving like this. It undermines society. It is the kind of behaviour which fragments our fragile civilisation.
I’m pleased to report that the families of the passengers who died on the Titanic are complaining as I have about the tourism taking place at the wreck of the Titanic which is a known graveyard site. They describe the tourism as “disgusting” and disrespectful. Good. I fully agree as you know. It is a point which needs to be emphasised.
I feel compelled to write this third postscript which is on the matter of whether the family of the deceased killed in the implosion have a right to sue the company, OceanGate and/or the estate of the deceased founder and I presume owner of that business who was also killed in the submarine, Stockton Rush. The allegation is that Rush was negligent and if his business can be found to be negligent then the waivers i.e. disclaimers that the passengers signed before they entered the submarine will be null and void. They can be torn up and the relatives can then sue for compensation. If the company was insured, they could of course sue the insurance company as well.
The mere existence of a waiver will not protect from a lawsuitChristopher LaVinge – partner US law firm Withers
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