The wrecked Titanic submarine had several ‘potential failure points’ – and a warning system likely alerted the five crew who died shortly before the ship exploded, Titanic director James Cameron has said.
A number of concerns have been raised in recent years about the ship’s carbon fiber hull – the cylinder that killed five crew – and its portholes, which were allegedly not certified for the enormous depth of the Titan’s venture.
The company’s CEO, Stockton Rush, even said the carbon fiber design broke a ‘rule’ and was accused of ignoring the concerns of his own employees.
Cameron, a renowned explorer who has traveled to the deepest known point of the ocean, said Titan had ‘three potential points of failure’ and indicated that its ‘Achilles heel’ was the carbon fiber cylinder.
He added that the pressure caused the Titan to explode into ‘very small pieces’ of the hull. A warning system probably sounded a warning and the crew tried to climb in moments before the explosion, he added.
The Titan’s carbon fiber hull and its acrylic viewport were the subject of several warnings, and James Cameron identified them as the ship’s ‘points of potential failure’.
Following the news of Titan’s death, Cameron gave a series of interviews which criticized the ‘fundamentally flawed’ carbon fiber hull.
Concerns about the hull and portholes were also raised by David Lochridge, Oceangate’s former head of marine operations, in court documents in 2018. The filing states that the viewport was ‘designed for a certified pressure of only 1,300 meters, although Oceangate intended to disembark passengers. At a depth of 4,000 meters.
Cameron provides a scathing assessment of the Titan craft during an interview after it was destroyed during its mission.
He criticized the design for moving away from proven techniques in favor of experimental methods.
He told Good Morning America, ‘There are three potential points of failure and the investigation will hopefully pinpoint exactly what happened.
‘The front viewport was an acrylic viewport. I’m told it’s rated at a lower depth than they dive, which is a point. They had two glass spheres in the sub, smaller glass spheres for floatation, which is a bad idea.’
Cameron did not clarify his point about the ‘sphere of glass’ but said it was the carbon fiber hull that was the ‘weak link’.
‘If I had to put money on what the findings would be, the Saab’s Achilles heel was the composite cylinder that housed the people inside the main hall,’
Cameron said: ‘And they probably warned that their hull was starting to come apart, and it was starting to crack… ‘It’s our belief that we understand from within the community that they’ve dropped their climbing weight and they’re coming up, trying. an emergency measure’
‘Each end had two titanium end caps. They remain relatively intact on the ocean floor. But that carbon fiber composite cylinder is now in very small pieces. It is all rammed into one of the hemispheres. It’s pretty clear that’s what failed.’
Rush, who died in the Titan incident, said in a video posted online in 2021 that he ‘broke some rules’ to build the ship, adding: ‘Carbon fiber and titanium, there’s one rule you don’t do – well I did.’
He also said in 2020 that the hull ‘showed signs of cyclic fatigue’.
Carbon fiber is prone to delamination, the process by which a material breaks into layers when under stress.
Cameron said: ‘The way it fails is delaminated. You have to have a hull, a pressure hull, made of an adjacent material like steel or titanium, which is of proven quality.’
‘This Oceangate sub had sensors inside the hull to give them a warning when it started cracking. And I think if that’s your idea of safety, you’re doing it wrong. And they probably warned that their hull was starting to delaminate, and it was starting to crack…
‘It is our belief that we understand from within the community that they have shed their climbing weight and that they are coming up, trying to manage the emergency.’
In 2012, James Cameron led a successful solo expedition to the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point on Earth. He drives the Deepsea Challenger (pictured) which was designed to withstand depths of more than 36,000 feet.
In 2012, Cameron followed his successful solo dive on the Deepsea Challenger, the deepest point on Earth, the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.
A graphic breaks down Cameron’s 2012 mission to the deepest known point in the ocean
OceanGate has not shared a comment on reports of security concerns about Titan since the incident.
Cameron successfully reached Earth’s deepest point, the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, in 2012 using the Deepsea Challenger submersible.
It was only the fourth time the seven-mile descent to the Pacific Ocean bed had been successfully made — and the first time a man had made it to the bottom and back since the 1960s.
The dive followed seven years of planning and design to build a specialized sub that could withstand enormous pressures on the ocean floor.
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