OceanGate boss Stockton Rush hired cheaper 'mothership' for Titan sub to be dragged across rough seas

16 July 2023, 10:44 | Updated: 17 July 2023, 09:58

Stockton Rush was among the five who died from the Titan's catastrophic implosion
Stockton Rush was among the five who died from the Titan's catastrophic implosion. Picture: Social media/Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

OceanGate boss Stockton Rush has been criticised for hiring a cheaper 'mothership' for his Titan sub, which was dragged for hundreds of miles across rough seas.

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Rush was among the five passengers on the sub when it catastrophically imploded during its journey down to the Titanic wreckage in June.

The others on board were UK billionaire Hamish Harding, French explorer Paul Henry Nargeolet, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman.

Engineering experts have now claimed that several moves designed to cut costs and make a profit from sea exploration could have contributed to the sub's downfall.

The mothership - name the Polar Prince - was a decommissioned Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker. It was smaller and older than previous ships OceanGate had used for similar excursions allegedly in a bid from Rush to save money.

The Titan, which sat on top of a launch platform, was dragged across the sea by a tow cable.

Read more: Experts say OceanGate's 'risky' cost-cutting design may have caused Titan sub to 'implode like a soda can'

Read more: Titan's final moments: Viral video shows how the tourist sub imploded killing five people on way to see the Titanic

Graphic explains how Titan submersible imploded

“I thought the sub and platform were being tossed around pretty roughly,” Arnie Weissmann, the editor in chief of Travel Weekly, told the New York Times about his expedition in May.

Experts compared the Titan with the Alvin - a US research submersible which has completed more than 4,500 dives since 1973.

Unlike the Titan, the Alvin has a spherical shape, allowing for a uniform distribution of pressure but limiting it to just three passengers. It is transported to a dive site on the deck of a mothership.

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Submersible lost on dive to Titanic suffered 'catastrophic implosion', say US Coast Guard

The Titan first began taking people to the Titanic in 2021, with the journey costing around $250,000 per person.

It was cylinder-shaped, allowing for up to five passengers per excursion - two more than the Alvin.

Tim Foecke, a retired forensic metallurgist, told the Times that the change in geometry from a tight sphere to a lengthy tube may have contributed to the sub's catastrophic failure.

He said a larger hull needs to be stronger and thicker to withstand the same pressure as a smaller one.

Former Royal Navy Officer would not have gone into the Titan

The Titan sub lost communication with its mothership on June 18 and debris was found on the sea floor days later.

Following the incident, it emerged that safety concerns were raised multiple times before, with several people including Ross Kemp and YouTuber Mr Beast having dropped out of doing similar trips.

When asked if towing the sub risked damage, a company spokesman told the Times: "OceanGate is unable to provide any additional information at this time."

The company suspended all exploration and commercial operations after the tragedy.