An American tourist submersible expert who traveled with OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush on the Titan sub in April 2019 said the hull made ominous cracking noises throughout their 12,000-foot voyage, and he warned Rush to slow down his Titanic plans.
Carl Stanley, who runs a tourist sub business based in Honduras, said he was invited by Rush to try out his sub, Titan, in the Bahamas.
Rush, 61, founded tourism company Oceangate in 2009 and designed the carbon fiber hull of the Titan ship himself.
He was among five people killed when the Titanic lost contact on Sunday morning while trying to reach the wreckage of the Titanic. The sub is now believed to have exploded during its descent: wreckage was discovered on the seabed Thursday just 1,600 feet from the Titanic’s bow.
Stanley told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday night that he wasn’t too concerned about the noise during the April 2019 trip, as Rush had warned him it was creaking. Rush was in control.
But later, he realized that it was probably dangerous.
Carl Stanley, a tourist submarine operator based in Honduras, described going on an April 2019 trip to Titan and being alarmed by the creaking noise.
Stanley spoke to CNN Friday night and described the email he wrote to Stockton Rush
Submersible expert Carl Stanley told CNN’s @andersoncooper about a 2019 email to OceanGate CEO and Titan submersible pilot Stockton Rush raising questions about a possible “error” in an area of the Titan sub. See: pic.twitter.com/us1HlZnW61
— CNN (@CNN) June 24, 2023
The submersible, Titan, is depicted upside down. It was the only of the five subs to reach the Titanic and the only tourist sub not independently certified as safe. Debris from the sub was found on the sea floor on Thursday
Rush is depicted in a submarine. He first wanted to explore space, but then moved on to the deep sea
Stanley said that the day after the trip, when he digested the experience, he wrote an email to Rush explaining his concerns.
He said the noise heard during their dive ‘appeared to be a fault/fault acting on an area with tremendous pressure and being crushed/damaged.’
He wrote, in an email obtained by The New York Times, that the loud, crackling sound signaled ‘an area of the hull that is collapsing.’
And he urged Rush to take his time with the development of the sub, to make sure it was safe.
Rush began promoting Titanic tourist tours in 2017 and had already collected fees from some passengers.
Early news releases said tourists would pay about $105,000 a piece, a price that OceanGate set because it was the inflation-adjusted price of a first-class ticket on the Titanic in 1912.
In 2018, the company fired their director of maritime operations after clashing with OceanGate executives over security protocols.
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’.
OceanGate Expeditions offers a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to safely dive on the wreck of the Titanic to become a specially trained crew member’.
Inside the Titan, which was built to accommodate five people on board
David Pogue, a CBS journalist, is seen inside the submersible with Rush. He went down to see Titanic last year
A few weeks later, several experts had a heated exchange with Rush at a conference of crude underwater vehicle experts in New Orleans, Stanley said.
‘People basically ganged up on him in that room,’ Stanley said.
And in March 2018, more than three dozen industry leaders, deep-sea explorers and oceanographers warned Rush in a letter that the company’s ‘experimental’ approach could cause potentially ‘catastrophic’ problems with the Titanic mission.
“We suggested, ‘Look, you’re going too fast, and the idea of bypassing the existing classification process could lead to serious consequences,'” said Will Cohen, head of the Marine Technology Society’s committee on manned underwater vehicles.
‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’
Oceangate says its claims stifle innovation and says the industry has been too cautious.
Stanley said he wrote his post-dive thoughts in an email because he knew Rush was defensive about his company.
In his April 2019 email, Stanley wrote: ‘A useful thought exercise here would be to imagine investors, eager mission scientists, your team hungry for success, the variable removal of press releases already announcing this summer’s dive schedule.
‘Imagine this project was self-funded and on your own schedule. Would you consider taking a few dozen more people to Titania before you really know the source of that noise?’
This is the last sighting of the submersible, Titan, which was launched on Sunday. Hamish Harding is seen in a photo shared by his company. He and four others on board were killed in the disaster
Five people were on board, including British billionaire adventurer Hamish Harding and Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleiman, who is just 19 years old.
Oceangate campaign CEO Stockton Rush (right) with French Navy veteran PH Nargiolet (left) on the sub
Rush did not respond.
But Stanley said Oceangate had canceled the Titanic dive for June 2019, saying it had failed to secure a permit for a research support vessel.
The first tourist trip took place in 2021.
Rush was killed along with French Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargiolet, 77; British billionaire businessman Hamish Harding, 58; and British-Pakistani father and son Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his son Sulaiman.
Search and rescue vessels are now returning to port in Newfoundland.
Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), underwater robots, continue to search for debris from the sub as investigators try to work out exactly what went catastrophically wrong.
Some have said that the sinking of the Titan on the first dive of the season may be relevant.
The salt water that got trapped in the ship’s various materials from the dive in 2021 and 2022 worked its way through the fibers and softened it.
Who was Stockton Rush?
San Francisco-born Rush, 61, founded OceanGate Expeditions in 2009 — after trying, and failing, to buy explorer and businessman Steve Fawcett’s submarine after the explorer died in a 2007 plane crash.
As a young man, Rush was more interested in space than the deep sea: at 19, he qualified with the United Airlines Jet Training Institute to become the world’s youngest jet transport-rated pilot.
For the next three years he flew for Saudi Arabia Airlines during summer breaks from his aerospace engineering course at Princeton.
From 1984 he worked with the US Air Force on the F-15 and anti-satellite missile programs, with the goal of eventually joining the space program.
Rush earned an MBA from Berkeley and worked for several companies specializing in sonar, subsea technology, and radar.
Stockton Rush, CEO of Oceangate
He built a Glacier III experimental aircraft that he flew regularly and his own Kittredge K-350 two-man submersible.
Rush had always intended to take tourists to Titania: In 2017, he said he then planned to go on tours of hydrothermal vents, or deep-sea canyons, and underwater battlefields.
He then hopes to work in oil and gas exploration.
In 2018, the Marine Technology Society’s Manned Underwater Vehicles Committee, a 60-year-old trade group, warned that the company’s current ‘experimental’ approach could lead to ‘minor to catastrophic’ problems.
The company also sacked David Lochridge, who was director of marine operations for the Titan project, after disagreeing with demands for more stringent safety checks on the submarine, including ‘tests to prove its integrity’.
Additionally, the company opted against ‘classifying’ the craft, an industry-wide practice where independent inspectors ensure that vessels meet accepted technical standards.
The first voyage to see the Titanic began in 2021. Rush was killed in the disaster on June 18.
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