When news broke Thursday of the discovery of the Titan’s wreckage, cameraman James Neihouse especially remembered his friend Hamish Harding, the billionaire businessman and explorer who was one of five people on the submarine, who disappeared on Sunday during a dive to the Titanic.
They met while making the 2020 documentary Another job, which tracked former NASA astronaut Colonel Terry Virts and a team including Harding as they broke the “around-the-world speed record for an aircraft flying over the North and South Poles” while celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon-celebrated countries. Harding was both a mission director and the executive producer of the doc. Neihouse, who was director of photography, described Harding as “one of the driving forces” behind the project, as he was instrumental in the logistics, including securing the Gulfstream G650 ER jet used to break the record.
“We’re all so brokenhearted here,” Neihouse said The Hollywood Reporter. “Hamish was a great guy and we will miss him. But he did what he loved to do and there is some comfort in that.”
Neihouse remembered his friend as a “family man” and “definitely the explorer adventurer”, who had been to the South Pole on a 2021 dive in another submarine, to space on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and to the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep.
“He was a very experienced pilot and he knew how to assess risk,” says Neihouse.
He was also interested in continuing to make documentaries, the cinematographer adds. “I think we probably would have worked together on another movie in the near future if this hadn’t happened.”
They hadn’t discussed Titanic as a subject, but Neihouse – an accomplished underwater cinematographer who also trained astronauts to film in space – reveals he was in talks to go to Titanic in the ’90s for a document that stalled when it production company was unable to secure financing. At the time, Neihouse learned about the ships as they researched how to film at the Titanic’s 12,5000-foot depth.
The DP says of this week’s tragedy: “I think what we really need to take away from this is that you can’t be too safe at those depths. It’s ruthless.
“I don’t know enough about the construction of the submarine (Titan) – just what I heard on the news – but it seems they could have taken a little more precaution on board. But since it was a catastrophic failure, those usually happen immediately. It’s too early to have any hard speculation about that, because they need to dig up the rubble and analyze what happened.”
Neihouse also believes that the regulations could be stricter. “If you’re going to sell this adventure to the general public, which this really was, I think there should be some expectations that the vehicle has been tested and certified as fully as possible.”
James Cameron, deep-sea explorer and director of the iconic Titanic film, Neihouse repeated in recent interviews and said he was struck by the resemblance to the sinking of the Titanic: “Many people in the community were concerned about this submarine and even wrote letters to the company saying that what they were doing was too experimental and too experimental. what they were doing had to be certified,” he told ABC News. “I am struck by the similarity of the disaster to the Titanic itself, where the captain was repeatedly warned of ice ahead of his ship and yet steamed into an ice field at full speed on a moonless night and many died as a result. It’s a very similar tragedy in the exact same place. It’s amazing and actually quite surreal.”