Seconds or Minutes: How Fast Did the Titanic Submarine Implode?

On Sunday, June 18, the Submersible operated by OeanGate set out on an expedition to the Titanic shipwreck site which is almost 13,000 feet below the sea level. The submersible lost contact within 1 hour and 45 minutes. On June 22, the search and rescue teams found debris from the OceanGate vessel. The OceanGate announced the death of all the 5 tourists on June 23 and paid tribute to them. The victims that died in the implosion were Hamish Harding, 58 , Paul Henri Nargeolet, 77, Stockton Rush 61, Shahzada Dawood, 48 and his son Suleman Dawood, 19.

According to an expert, the Titan submarine’s implosion would have been so fast that the people on board “Never knew it happened”.

As per US officials, the victims died in a “catastrophic implosion” sometime after the vessel lost contact with the mother ship on Sunday. 

Experts told the New York Post that when the communication failed, the vessel would have been less than 10,000 feet below the surface at which there is a massive water pressure. This means that any crack or weakness in the vessel would cause it to instantly implode. 

Expert Ofter Ketter said that if something breached the hull of the vessel then the implosion would have caused within a millisecond. He said ” They never knew it happened, Which is actually very positive in this very negative situation.”

Ofter Ketter is the co-founder of the Private submersible company Sub-Merge and said that “It was instantaneous — before even their brain could even send a type of message to their body that they’re having pain”. 

The carbon fibre and the titanium hull of the Titan was designed to hold the pressure that far beneath the water surface which is around 6,000 pounds per square inch. 

As per Dr Peter Girguis, an oceanographer and a professor from Harvard University “When a scuba tank is overfilled there’s a safety device that releases gas very quickly. At least that’s the plan. When you take the equivalent of a scuba tank and you want it to hold the pressure out, it’s a different story, because if you go beyond the strength of the vessel then it crushes or collapses.”

He also added that “We tend to believe [the implosions] are swift and they tend to be complete, but I want to emphasize again, we don’t exactly know.” He said that the submersibles are subject to pressure tests. To be considered safe, these vessels are often required to handle more pressure than they will likely face. 

He mentioned “So if you’re doing work at a given depth, you have to design it so it can withstand at least 1.5 or two times depending on the nation, the policy, etc. We build in those safety factors, then we test it … often up to 10 times.”

Ofter Ketter however said that “implosions shouldn’t happen, because we know how to build submersibles for them not to implode. So, when do implosions happen? To be honest and to be frank, when the engineering is wrong in its calculation”.

He also added that “When either the structure, the material, the testing, the seals – any other part of the submersible that was designed to go to that depth – was designed wrong and didn’t withstand the pressures that it was designed to.”

As of now, there is no evidence that the OceanGate might be at fault and the investigation on what led to the vessel to implode is still ongoing.

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