Lake Forest explorer recounts his journey on missing Titanic submarine

As the search intensifies for OceanGate’s missing submersible ‘Titan,’ a North Shore adventurer who once traveled to the site of the Titanic wreck is recounting his experience.

"It’s really hard for me to imagine what’s going through their minds," said David Waud. "Obviously Stockton, the CEO and pilot, was very confident or he wouldn’t go down on almost every dive, and his confidence spread to all of us, too."

The Lake Forest man ventured to the Titanic’s debris field more than 12,500 feet below sea level in August 2021.

"I did not have the least bit worry when I was in that submersible for between 10 and 11 hours," said Waud.

Waud had tried for years to make the trip to the famed shipwreck, but it didn’t pan out until he discovered OceanGate. According to its website, OceanGate ‘owns and operates three 5-person submersibles for site survey, scientific research, film production, and exploration travel to depths as great as 4,000 meters (2.5 miles).’

An adventurer and underwater filmmaker, Waud partook in the expedition the first summer the company made it available – and was on the very submersible that crews are now frantically searching for.

"We actually ended up at the stern, rather than the bow, which was disappointing. The stern is a mangled piece of metal but it’s still pretty neat to go over, and it hasn’t been filmed very much," said Waud.

Now retired, Waud previously traveled the country presenting his research and films during school assemblies to interest children in the underwater world.


"Once you’re down there, it’s pretty simple going around. Frontward, backward, a little bit up and a little bit down, and then when you’re ready to go back to the top, you drop some weights, and up you go again, about 2.5 hours to get back to the top," said Waud.

On the ocean floor, Waud says Stockton Rush controlled the direction of the submersible with a PlayStation controller.

For years, the former teacher and avid scuba diver dreamed of making the underwater journey and ultimately described it as smooth sailing.

"They have a very sophisticated communication system to communicate with the team up at the surface on the support boat," said Waud. "You do not have GPS underwater, so they had to tell us where to go to find the stern when we landed in the debris field."

Waud says some worst-case scenarios were reviewed before plunging into the depths of the ocean, including what to do if there was a fire on-board or if Rush, the pilot, passed out.

"They showed us how to release the weights, which would automatically make the submersible ascend back to the surface," said Waud. "At one point, somebody said, if there’s an implosion, you won’t even know what hit you, you’re just gone in a split second because the pressure would come right into the submersible."

Still, the idea of not resurfacing wasn't on his radar.

"I was so excited, I didn’t cramp up, I had no other problems, I loved it, both up, down, and on the bottom," said Waud. "Obviously I wouldn’t have been recommending that to my friends if I felt any problems with it at the time and any hesitancy, so I certainly didn’t then, now knowing what I know, I don’t think I would have gone."

Waud even planned an event with OceanGate in Lake Forest after his trip, where community members could see the Titan for themselves.

Waud says his heart goes out to those on board and their families.

"I just can’t imagine what’s going through their mind now after they were so excited, as I was two years ago to go on this trip, and then have this tragic accident happen to them, whatever it is," said Waud.