What could have happened to the missing Titanic expedition submarine

Experts weigh in on possible scenarios as a search for five people on board the vessel enters Day 4


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This undated image shows the Titan submersible on a platform awaiting signal to dive. The 21-foot vessel went missing on Sunday. (Photo: OceanGate Expeditions/AFP)
This undated image shows the Titan submersible on a platform awaiting signal to dive. The 21-foot vessel went missing on Sunday. (Photo: OceanGate Expeditions/AFP)

Published: Wed 21 Jun 2023, 7:10 PM

Experts are trying to assess what could have led to disappearance of a 21-foot submersible in the depths of the Atlantic even as rescuers are racing against time to find the five people on board.

Eric Fusil, who serves as the director of the shipbuilding hub at the University of Adelaide, has outlined a range of potential scenarios that could explain the submersible's disappearance, according to a report by the Associated Press news agency. These are power failure, fire outbreak, flooding and entanglement.

Fusil highlighted the dangers associated with fire, explaining that it could disable the submersible's systems or produce toxic fumes that might render the crew unconscious.

Another scenario is that of flooding, in which case the consequences would be even more drastic. According to the expert, flooding in the submersible, called Titan, could lead to a rapid and catastrophic implosion of the vessel.

The Conversation too delves into other possible scenarios. One of them involves the vessel having lost power and ending up at the bottom of the Atlantic. Another possibility is that of a “catastrophic failure to its pressure housing”, which could lead to an implosion, the report added.

There is also a possibility that Titan experienced a power loss but is equipped with a built-in safety system designed to facilitate its resurfacing. As an example, the submersible may be fitted with supplementary weights that can be released to rapidly enhance its buoyancy and enable it to ascend to the surface.

Jules Jaffe, who was part of the team that found the Titanic in 1985, told AFP news agency in La Jolla, California, that there were two likely explanations for the sub's disappearance. "It's either a mechanical failure, or an electrical failure," the research oceanographer at the University of San Diego said.

"I'm hoping it's an electrical failure, because they do have weights, one of the safety procedures that they have is to make themselves lighter. So if you're heavier than the water, you sink, if you're lighter than the water you float."

Meanwhile, disturbing facts about the Titan have come to the fore. For instance, it has come to light that Titan had previously experienced electrical damage and required reconstruction due to its inability to withstand the ocean's conditions. The submersible went missing subsequent to these alterations. Trips to the Titanic were also postponed in 2018 and 2019 due to technical issues, according to media reports.

A report in the Daily Mail said OceanGate Expeditions, the company accountable for the submersible, appeared late in notifying the Coast Guard after losing contact with the submersible.

The Western media also reported that experts had warned OceanGate of "catastrophic" issues with Titan's design. Five years ago, experts from the Marine Technology Society wrote to Stockton Rush, the chief executive of OceanGate who is among the five people aboard the missing vehicle, expressing "unanimous concern" about Titan, according to letter that The New York Times has accessed.


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