Was the Titan sub’s owner looking for investors during the tragedy?
Did the tragic implosion of OceanGate’s submersible Titan, taking the lives of all five onboard including its creator Stockton Rush, reveal an audacious maverick or a misguided dreamer?
It was on a sultry July day in 2022, that CBS correspondent David Pogue found himself spending nine days aboard the Titan, a creation of Stockton Rush and his company OceanGate, established in 2009. This behind-the-scenes encounter brought Pogue up close and personal with Rush, a man whose audacity often drew comparisons to industry pioneers like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.
But like any maverick, Rush had his fair share of critics. His selective embrace of expert opinions, which frequently saw him celebrate endorsements from the likes of NASA and renowned deep-sea explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet while dismissing naysayers, raised eyebrows.
Pogue himself observed instances where Rush overstated collaborations, notably with Boeing and the University of Washington, concerning the design of the Titan.
Nevertheless, despite the sub’s tragic implosion in a dive to the Titanic shipwreck that claimed the lives of five people including Rush, Pogue refrains from slapping the label of a con man on Rush. “Rush believed in his creation — a belief so deep-seated that he risked his life numerous times in its steel embrace,” Pogue reflected in a New York Magazine piece.
Indeed, Pogue’s time onboard painted a picture of a “serious culture of safety” that permeated the Titan crew. A stringent process encompassing exhaustive checklists, bi-daily briefings, and a “three-strikes rule” for dive cancellation, all underscored the dedication to safety that Rush and his team showed.
The Titan’s calamitous dive on June 18 wasn’t the sub’s first date with the Titanic wreckage. It had made three successful descents prior. Now, with the tragedy sending shockwaves through the maritime domain, the US Coast Guard has initiated its highest level of investigation into the event.
“My primary focus is to prevent a recurrence of this event and enhance global maritime safety,” Capt. Jason Neubauer, the lead investigator, shared. Simultaneously, the Titanic Foundation has initiated a review into Rush’s claims of the Titan being “safer than a helicopter or scuba diving, or even crossing the street.”
Rush’s dream, his vision, wasn’t without admirers. His bold approach to undersea exploration often drew parallels with disruptive figures like Elon Musk. His approach might have been labeled as cavalier by some, but to others, he was a trailblazer.
However, his maverick methodology and experimental approach had industry experts on edge, with some even parting ways with OceanGate due to mounting concerns. These concerns, tragically, came to the forefront with the disaster, prompting introspection and investigation.
Stockton Rush was undeniably a man driven by a vision. But as we delve deeper into this tragedy and the questions it raises about maritime safety and innovative ambition, we must also ask: did Rush’s dream push him, and others, too far into peril?