Investigators probing the Titan tragedy could reassemble sections of the vessel which have been recovered from the sea floor to pinpoint the weaknesses that caused it to implode.
Several identifiable parts were lifted ashore on Wednesday afternoon, including the sub’s nose and a large panel which appears to be from its tail end.
The discoveries surprised experts who suspected Titan was destroyed when it suffered a ‘catastrophic implosion’ with five people on board during a journey to the wreckage of the Titanic.
It is thought the craft’s titanium components better withstood the disaster, while the weaker carbon fiber parts – including the hull – are more likely to have been crushed into tiny pieces.
Tom Maddox, CEO at Underwater Investigators, told DailyMail.com: ‘Many of us suspected that, in the case of this catastrophic failure, this implosion, that a lot of the parts would be disintegrated, particularly the non-titanium parts, which, of course, would make the investigation a lot harder to do.’
Investigators probing the Titan tragedy could reassemble sections of the vessel which have been recovered from the sea floor to pinpoint the weaknesses that caused it to implode
The titanium front-end of Titan, where its viewing port was located, was clearly identifiable among the sections which were recovered. It’s thought that the titanium parts are likely to have suffered less damage in the implosion, compared with the weaker carbon fiber elements
Another large section appeared to be a panel from Titan’s tail, which also included titanium components. Some experts expected that salvaged pieces would be far smaller
One segment included a mass of cables and wiring and also had protruding parts which looked similar to Titan’s antennae
He said finding larger pieces ‘means we have more pieces of the puzzle to put together’.
‘They’ll put it back as best they can,’ he said. ‘I don’t think there’s a rulebook for this, you know, there’s no manual, this is something new. And they’re going to have to kind of write the book as they go along, would be my thought, but they’ll use their past experiences and their knowledge to do that.’
Other fragments lifted from the ocean today reveal wiring and cables, and appear to show some of Titan’s other internal systems.
Experts who warned about Titan’s safety before the crash said its carbon fiber hull, which housed the five crew, was its ‘Achilles heel’ because the material is not considered suitable for dives at the depths reached by the vessel.
Titanic director James Cameron, a renowned deep sea explorer and submersibles expert, said previously that the hull was likely broken into ‘very small pieces’ in the incident.
Titan’s carbon fiber hull and its acrylic viewport were subject to several warnings and James Cameron singled them out as ‘potential failure points’ on the vessel
Titan’s remains were found near the Titanic shipwreck, 12,500ft below the Atlantic Ocean
‘If I had to put money down on what the finding [of the investigation] will be, the Achilles heel of the sub was the composite cylinder that was the main hull that the people were inside,’ he said.
‘There were two titanium end caps on each end. They are relatively intact on the sea floor. But that carbon fiber composite cylinder is now just in very small pieces. It’s all rammed into one of the hemispheres. It’s pretty clear that’s what failed.’
The parts lifted from the ocean appear to align with Cameron’s observations, including that the larger piece was the vessel’s titanium shell. Investigators will now work to confirm what each piece is.
Maddox added: ‘This is a horrible catastrophe, and we’re sorry for all who lost their lives. But if we can find anything positive by finding where the failure points were, understanding what happened and avoiding it in the future, that’s the key.’
He said that the investigation could take a year or more and was likely to be an extremely difficult task.
‘It’s not like you break a vase or a glass and you find all the pieces and you put them back together to get an idea, maybe you’re missing a few small pieces.
A large circular piece of the Titan, which is similar to the sections at each end of the hull, was also retrieved
The salvaged remains of Titan were lifted to shore by a huge crane on Wednesday morning
‘In this case, not only are we not sure that all the pieces will be recovered. But we’re not sure of the particular type of damage that was caused by that.
‘Certainly by looking at wiring, plumbing, things like that, they can see if there were stress points.’
A series of concerns were raised in recent years about the vessel’s carbon fiber hull – the cylinder which carried the five crew who perished – and its porthole, which was allegedly not certified to the depths Titan ventured to.
The company’s CEO, Stockton Rush, even said the carbon fiber design broke a ‘rule’ and was accused of ignoring concerns from his own staff.
Rush, who died in the Titan incident, said in a video posted online in 2021: ‘The carbon fiber and titanium, there’s a rule you don’t do that – well I did.’
He also said in 2020 that the hull ‘showed signs of cyclical fatigue’.
Carbon fiber is prone to delamination, the process whereby a material fractures into layers while put under pressure.
Cameron said previously: ‘The way it fails is it delaminates. You have to have a hull, a pressure hull, made out of a contiguous material like steel, or like titanium, which is the proven standard.’
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, who perished on board the Titan, admitted the he broke ‘some rules’ to make the submersible, including the use of carbon fiber for the hull
‘This OceanGate sub had sensors on the inside of the hull to give them a warning when it was starting to crack. And I think if that’s your idea of safety, then you’re doing it wrong. And they probably had warning that their hull was starting to delaminate, and it started to crack…’
OceanGate has not shared a comment about reports into safety concerns about Titan since the incident.
The company had boasted in promotional material about Titan’s ‘Real Time Hull Health Monitoring’, which constantly checked the integrity of the vessel throughout the dive.
The system used acoustic sensors and strain gauges to ‘analyze the effects of changing pressure on the vessel as the submersible dives deeper, and accurately assess the integrity of the structure’.
But legal filings reveal Lochridge, the former director of marine operations, ‘expressed concern that this was problematic because this type of acoustic analysis would only show when a component is about to fail—often milliseconds before an implosion—and would not detect any existing flaws prior to putting pressure onto the hull.’
The US Coast Guard has launched an investigation into the cause of the underwater implosion that destroyed Titan.
Shahzada Dawood, 48, one of Pakistan’s richest men, who along with his teenage son Suleman Dawood, 19, (together, left) died on the Titan along with British explorer Hamish Harding (right)
French explorer PH Nargeolet, who had the nickname ‘Mr Titanic’, also died on board the Titan
Safety fears were repeatedly raised by experts who said the vessel was not suitable for the immense depths it traveled to. Critics said its carbon fiber hull was not fit for purpose and also raised the alarm about its viewport, which was not certified to such depths.
The Coast Guard said it had created a marine board of investigation (MBI), its highest level of probe.
‘My primary goal is to prevent a similar occurrence by making the necessary recommendations to enhance the safety of the maritime domain worldwide,’ said Jason Neubauer, the Coast Guard’s chief investigator and leader of the probe.
‘The MBI is already in its initial evidence-collection phase, including debris salvage operations at the incident site,’ he added.
Neubauer said the US probe could also make recommendations on the possible pursuit of civil or criminal sanctions ‘as necessary’.
Titan was reported missing last Sunday and the Coast Guard said Thursday that all five people aboard the submersible had died after the vessel suffered a catastrophic implosion.
A debris field was found on the seafloor, 1,600 feet (500 meters) from the bow of the Titanic, which sits more than two miles (nearly four kilometers) below the ocean’s surface and 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
Canada, which helped in the search for the submersible, said Saturday it was carrying out its own probe.
The Canadian-flagged Polar Prince cargo vessel towed the Titan out to sea last weekend but lost contact with it about an hour and 45 minutes after the submersible launched into the ocean depths.
The announcement of the implosion ended a multinational search-and-rescue operation that captured the world’s attention since the tourist craft went missing.
British adventurer Hamish Harding and father and son Shahzada and Suleman Dawood were killed on board the submersible, alongside the American chief executive of the company responsible for the vessel, Stockton Rush, and French national Paul-Henri Nargeolet.
Salvage operations are continuing and investigators have mapped the accident site, Cpt Neubauer said on Sunday. It is unclear how long it will take. The US Coast Guard said it does not charge for search and rescue operations.