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23rd Jun 2023

How the Titanic sub might have imploded and what happened to the passengers inside

Steve Hopkins

‘It’s like being here one minute, and then the switch is turned off. You’re alive one millisecond, and the next millisecond you’re dead’

Experts have detailed what led to the “catastrophic implosion” aboard the Titan on Sunday that claimed five lives and sparked a massive international search and rescue mission.

Communications were lost with OceanGate’s vessel one hour and 45 minutes after it set off on Sunday, sparking a race against time to find the 21-foot-long vessel that had just 96-hours of emergency oxygen and limited rations on board. However, director James Cameron has since said he knew on Monday that all hope was lost and how a loud bang was heard the moment it lost contact.

The US Coast Guard announced Thursday that debris had been found on the seabed, 1,600 feet (488 meters) from the bow of the Titanic, leaving experts to determine “a catastrophic implosion of the vehicle” that has claimed the lives of everyone on board: British billionaire Hamish Harding, 58, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, 61, French navy veteran Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his son Suleman, 19.

Submersibles are designed to withstand crushing underwater pressures. At those depths, the pressure is said to be about 400 times greater than at sea level.

However, any damage or defect to the Titan’s hull could result in a leak which would trigger the vessel to immediately implode, HITC reported.

Stefan Williams, a professor of marine robotics at the University of Sydney, told The Guardian: “If the pressure vessel has failed catastrophically, it’s like a small bomb going off. The potential is that all the safety devices might be destroyed in the process.”

Guillermo Söhnlein, one of the founders of OceanGate, told the BBC that if that was the case, “that’s what would have happened four days ago.”

It also means the passengers did not suffer as the implosion would have been almost instantaneous, lasting only milliseconds, according to the Journal of Physics: Conference Series. Something similar happened in 1961 to the USS Thresher, a submarine thought to have imploded, Insider noted.

The event would have pulled the metal vessel apart “like taffy,” according to the Naval History Magazine. “Complete destruction would occur in 1/20th of a second, too fast to be cognitively recognised by the men within the submarine.”

An implosion is the opposite of an explosion. Rather than the pressure going outward, it goes inward.

“I know it’s no great comfort to the families and the spouses, but they did die instantaneously. They were not even aware that anything was wrong,” the journalist David Pogue told CNN.

Dr. Dale Molé, the former director of undersea medicine and radiation health for the US Navy, told the Daily Mail: “It would have been so sudden, that they wouldn’t even have known that there was a problem, or what happened to them.

“It’s like being here one minute, and then the switch is turned off. You’re alive one millisecond, and the next millisecond you’re dead.”

Captain John Noble has said the deceased will now join the hundreds of Titanic passengers who lost lives when the ship hit an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic Sea in April, 1912.

Asked about the chances of the crew members being recovered, Noble said: “They are at the bottom of the sea. They are now in a resting place, along with hundreds of Titanic passengers.

“The decision may well be to leave the Titan victims in peace where they are. And dare I say it, the cost to recover them would be astronomical.”

Related links:

James Cameron found out Titanic sub had imploded on Monday

Discovery Channel explorer refused seat on Titanic sub due to ‘safety concerns’

Student on board Titanic sub was ‘terrified’ about the trip and only agreed to go as a Father’s Day gift

Doctor describes hell Titanic submarine passengers are going through

Gaming controller used to pilot lost Titanic submarine has received hundreds of negative reviews online

Loose Women star Janet Street-Porter calls missing Titanic explorers ‘selfish billionaires’

Submarine expert gives grim prediction on survival chances of those on board