Here's What to Know About the Titanic Submarine Implosion

The search for the submersible was called off after the Coast Guard announced its implosion.

A submersible that was built to ferry tourists to the wreckage of the Titanic for $250,000 per person that went missing on June 18 was called off on June 22. The vessel began its descent to the wreckage site, which is about 13,000 feet below the sea level, on June 18 at 9 am. The last contact with the sub, called Titan, came in at 11:47 am, according to CNN.

Based on information gathered by the US Navy and later confirmed by the US Coast Guard, the submersible experienced a catastrophic implosion on board.

The sub, which had five passengers on board, was supposed to return from its voyage at around 6 pm, but it never did. OceanGate, the company that is responsible for the submarine voyage, issued a statement about the loss of the five people on board and the submarine's disappearance.

"We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost," the statement read. "These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans. Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."

Here's what to know about this situation.

Did they find the missing submarine?

A days-long search for the sub began after it was reported missing on Sunday. The Coast Guard, US Navy, Canadian Coast Guard, and a French ship with an underwater robot, among other institutions, were working to find the missing submarine. On June 22, as the reported 96 hours of oxygen the craft was supplied with was due to run out, it was announced that debris belonging to Titan was found near the Titanic wreckage site.

Shortly later, it was confirmed that evidence of a catastrophic implosion of the vessel had been found.

Who was on board the missing submarine?

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, British businessman Hamish Harding, Pakistani billionaire Shahzada Dawood, his 19-year-old son Sulaiman Dawood, and French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet were onboard, according to ABC News. All have now been reported to be dead.

The youngest victim of the Titan tragedy, Sulaiman Dawood, was very anxious about participating in the dive and only attended to please his father, according to family members.

Was the submarine really run using a game controller?

According to OceanGate's own CEO, Stockton Rush, yes. In an interview that Rush did with CBS News in November 2022, Rush told the reporter: "We run the whole thing with this game controller." According to ARS Technica, the remote was the Logitech F710 Wireless controller, which retails for $30.

What happened to the missing submarine?

Some experts feared early on that the submarine may have imploded after a crack developed in the hull at around 3,200 meters below the ocean's surface.

"When you're talking 6,000 pounds per square inch, it is a dangerous environment. More people have been to outer-space than to this depth of the ocean," a diver named G. Harris said during a TV interview. He has previous experience diving to see the Titanic wreckage. "When you're diving in these situations you have to cross your 'T's and dot your 'I's. You have to do everything absolutely perfect and by the book."

That was additionally confirmed by the US Navy, who confirmed that their sonic monitoring detected a loud boom at around the same time the submarine lost contact at 11:47 am on Sunday morning. While some debris from the implosion has been recovered, the nature of an implosion at the depth in the ocean, 3,500 feet means the likelihood of recovering the bodies of those onboard or of the vessel itself are obsolete.
 

What is a catastrophic implosion?

The Oxford Dictionary defines an implosion as "an instance of something collapsing violently inward." In this instance, the catastrophic implosion describes the immediate and obliterative nature of the event. Because the submarine was made out of materials (a carbon-fiber hull, for starters) that were not contiguous, it made the vehicle incredibly vulnerable to such an event. Deep sea diving expert and Titanic film director James Cameron breaks down the science below. 

Why are people mad about the lost submarine?

Online, sentiments of anger and disgust about this tragedy have been widespread. There's a lot to be upset about. For starters, this seems to have been an entirely preventable loss of life. CEO Stockton Rush was reportedly warned repeatedly that his submersible was not safe for deep sea dives, and he regularly flouted that safety was "a waste." As Cameron detailed, it was a hubris that similarly brought down the Titanic back in 1912.

Beyond that, the amount of effort, money, time, and resources exerted to rescue five people on what was now clearly a fool's errand is painting a sharp relief against the recent migrant voyages that have resulted in catastrophic loss of lives. In these instances, there has been footage captured of boats full of people slowly sinking into the ocean, and no similar attempts were made to rescue them. In fact, in Italy, some people are actually facing criminal charges and up to 20 years of imprisonment for their ocean rescues of migrants.

These crossings, which often originate in Libya and are headed for Italy or Greece, have been a well-documented fraught and dangerous journey since at least 2014. People fleeing conflict in Syria, Eritrea, and other parts of Africa and the Middle East have been left to drown—in large parts due to the rampant xenophobia and racism in western countries. The glaring disparity for the value of life by western governments was only further highlighted in the search and rescue efforts made for the Titan.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.