There were several ‘potential points of failure’ in the doomed Titan submersible – and an alert system likely alerted the five crew members who perished shortly before the ship imploded, the Titanic director says , James Cameron.
A series of concerns have been raised in recent years over the ship’s carbon fiber hull – the cylinder that carried the five crew members who perished – and its porthole, which is believed not to have been certified for immense depths which Titan has ventured.
Company CEO Stockton Rush even said the carbon fiber design broke a “rule” and was accused of ignoring the concerns of his own staff.
Cameron, a renowned explorer who has traveled to the deepest known point in the ocean, said Titan had “three potential points of failure” and said its “Achilles heel” was the fiberglass cylinder. carbon.
He added that the hull was shattered into “very small pieces” after Titan’s implosion when the hull fractured from the pressure. A warning system likely triggered an alert and the crew attempted to ascend just before the implosion, he added.
The Titan’s carbon fiber hull and acrylic window have been the subject of several warnings and James Cameron has singled them out as “potential failure points” on the ship.
Cameron gave a series of interviews following news of Titan’s demise which criticized the ‘fundamentally flawed’ carbon fiber hull
Concerns about the hull and porthole were also raised by former OceanGate marine operations chief David Lochridge in court papers in 2018. The documents say the porthole was “only built at a certified pressure of 1,300 meters, although OceanGate intends to lower passengers”. at depths of 4,000 meters.
Cameron delivered a damning assessment of the Titan ship in a series of interviews following the grim news that it had been destroyed during its mission.
He criticized the design for moving away from proven techniques in favor of experimental methods.
“There are three potential points of failure and hopefully the investigation can pinpoint exactly what happened,” he told Good Morning America.
‘The front window was an acrylic window. I was told it was rated shallower than they dive, which is a point. They also had two glass spheres on the submarine, small glass spheres for flotation, which is a bad idea.
Cameron didn’t clarify his “glass spheres” statement, but he said it was the carbon fiber shell that was the “weakest link.”
“If I had to put money on what the discovery will be, the Achilles heel of the submarine was the composite cylinder which was the main hull that people were in,”
Cameron said: “And they probably got a warning that their hull was starting to delaminate, and it started cracking…” We think we understand from inside the community that they had lost their ascent weight and they were going up, trying to handle an emergency”
“There were two titanium end caps on each end. They are relatively intact on the seabed. But that carbon fiber composite cylinder is now just in very small pieces. It’s pretty clear that’s what failed.
Rush, who died in the Titan incident, said in a video posted online in 2021 that he “broke some rules” to create the ship and added: “Carbon fiber and titanium, there is a rule that you don’t do that – well I did.’
He also said in 2020 that the hull had “shown signs of cyclic fatigue”.
Carbon fiber is prone to delamination, the process by which a material fractures into layers when put under pressure.
Cameron said: “The way it fails is that it delaminates. You have to have a hull, a pressurized hull, made of a contiguous material like steel, or like titanium, which is the proven standard.
“This OceanGate submarine had sensors inside the hull to warn them when it was starting to crack. And I think if that’s your idea of security, then you’re wrong. And they probably got a warning that their hull was starting to peel off, and it started cracking…
“We think we understand from inside the community that they had lost their climbing weight and were going up, trying to handle an emergency.”
In 2012, James Cameron flew a successful solo mission to the deepest known point on Earth, the Mariana Trench. He piloted the Deepsea Challenger (pictured) which was designed to withstand depths in excess of 36,000ft
Cameron in 2012 after his successful solo dive in Deepsea Challenger to Earth’s deepest known point, the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench
A graphic breaks down Cameron’s 2012 mission to the deepest known point in the ocean
OceanGate did not share a comment on reports of security issues with Titan since the incident.
The company had boasted in promotional material of Titan’s “real-time hull health monitoring”, which continuously checked the vessel’s integrity throughout the dive. The system used acoustic sensors and strain gauges to ‘analyze the effects of pressure variations on the vessel as the submersible dives deeper and accurately assess the integrity of the structure”.
But the legal documents reveal that Lochridge, the former director of marine operations, “expressed concern that this type of acoustic analysis would only show when a component is about to fail – often a few milliseconds before an implosion – and would not detect any existing flaws before exerting pressure on the hull.
Cameron successfully reached the deepest known point on Earth, the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, in 2012 using the Deepsea Challenger submersible.
It was only the fourth time the seven-mile descent to the Pacific seabed had been successful – and the first time a man had made it to the bottom since 1960.
The dive followed seven years of planning and design for building the specialized submarine that could withstand the immense pressure on the ocean floor.