Titan submersible implosion: Titanic expeditions continue unabated 1 year after tragedy

Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the deadly implosion of an experimental submersible en route to the deep-sea grave of the Titanic. 

The Titan vanished on its way to the historic wreckage site in the North Atlantic Ocean. After a five-day search that captured attention around the world, authorities said the vessel had been destroyed and all five people on board had died.

Concerns have been raised about whether the Titan was destined for disaster because of its unconventional design and its creator’s refusal to submit to independent checks that are standard in the industry. The U.S. Coast Guard quickly convened a high-level investigation into what happened, but officials said the inquiry is taking longer than the initial 12-month time frame, and a planned public hearing to discuss their findings won’t happen for at least another two months.

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Meanwhile, deep-sea exploration continues. The Georgia-based company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic plans to visit the sunken ocean liner in July using remotely operated vehicles, and a real estate billionaire from Ohio has said he plans a voyage to the shipwreck in a two-person submersible in 2026.

What happened to the Titan submersible?

The Titan had been chronicling the Titanic’s decay and the underwater ecosystem around the sunken ocean liner in yearly voyages since 2021.

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The craft made its last dive on June 18, 2023, a Sunday morning, and lost contact with its support vessel about two hours later. When it was reported overdue that afternoon, rescuers rushed ships, planes and other equipment to the area, about 435 miles south of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The U.S. Navy notified the Coast Guard that day of an anomaly in its acoustic data that was "consistent with an implosion or explosion" at the time communications between the Polar Prince and the Titan were lost, a senior Navy official later told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive technology.

Any sliver of hope that remained for finding the crew alive was wiped away on June 22, when the Coast Guard announced that debris had been found near the Titanic on the ocean floor. Authorities have since recovered the submersible’s intact endcap, debris and presumed human remains from the site.

Who were the victims of the Titan submersible implosion?

The implosion killed the submersible's operator, Stockton Rush, and four others. Rush also co-founded OceanGate, the company that owned the submersible.

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In addition to Rush, the implosion killed two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood; British adventurer Hamish Harding; and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

Harding and Nargeolet were members of The Explorers Club, a professional society dedicated to research, exploration and resource conservation.

What happened to the Titanic?

The ocean liner Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in April 1912, killing all but about 700 of the roughly 2,200 passengers and crew. Since the wreckage’s discovery in 1985, it has been slowly succumbing to metal-eating bacteria. Some have predicted the ship could vanish in a matter of decades as holes yawn in the hull and sections disintegrate.

Where is the Titanic wreck?

The Titanic wreck site is located 963 miles northeast of New York and 453 miles southeast of the Newfoundland coastline, sitting 12,000 feet below sea level. 

How many people have visited the Titanic wreckage site?

Fewer than 250 people in the world have personally viewed the Titanic wreckage, which sits about 2.5 miles below the ocean’s surface, according to OceanGate. 

Famous filmmaker James Cameron famously made the 1997 film "Titanic," which became the highest-grossing film in history at the time, as well as earning 11 Academy Awards.

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His interest in shipwrecks served as a motivation to make the film.

"I made Titanic because I wanted to dive to the shipwreck, not because I particularly wanted to make the movie," Cameron told Playboy Magazine in 2010. "The Titanic was the Mount Everest of shipwrecks, and as a diver I wanted to do it right."

Cameron made several submersible dives to the wreck itself prior to the movie’s release. He later formed Earthship Productions to make documentary films about ocean exploration and conservation. 

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In total, he has done 33 dives to the Titanic wreckage site since the film’s release, according to National Geographic

Kelly Hayes and The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.