Experts Weigh in on What Could Have Happened to the Titan Submersible

What happened to the submersible? Experts posit theories about what could have gone wrong with the OceanGate vessel.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jun. 22 2023, Published 12:56 p.m. ET

As of the time of this writing, the OceanGate submersible Titan has been missing for four days. In all likelihood, the vessel's oxygen supply is dwindling while the search and rescue mission continues. There is no room to sugarcoat this situation. The outlook is certainly bleak. In an effort to understand what could have possibly happened, experts have posited theories about the submersible's status.

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The Vessel Got Caught on Something

CBS Sunday Morning correspondent David Pogue was on the Titan in 2022 for a story and was able to provide some insight into what happened. According to him, it should be "bobbing on the ocean's surface given that features allow it to rise from the depths of the sea without electricity, even if everyone aboard is passed out." Because thus far this isn't the case, he thinks it could be caught on something on the ocean floor.

Breach in the Hull

OceanGate's Titan submersible
Source: Instagram/@oceangate

OceanGate's Titan submersible

Dr Nicolai Roterman, a deep-sea ecologist at the University of Portsmouth, told The Daily Mail that a breach in the Titan's hull would cause the pressure to kill the passengers almost instantaneously. "If there was any kind of hull breach, the occupants would succumb to the ocean in a near instant, given the more than 5,500 pounds per square inch pressure exerted by the ocean at the depth of 3,800m (12,467ft)," he said.

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Oxygen Supply Runs Out

As reporter David Pogue pointed out, the four day oxygen supply has never been tested. "Nobody's ever measured it." On Tuesday June 20, the Coast Guard said the vessel had roughly 40 hours of "breathable air" remaining. Because the Titan is bolted shut from the outside, the passengers would be unable to open it even if it reached the surface.

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The Titan Suffered a Power Failure

In a blog post, Stefan Williams, a professor of marine robotics at the University of Sydney, said a power failure could have been caused by a "small fire from an electrical short circuit" which in turn could compromise the "vehicle's electronic systems." These systems are used to navigate the vessel.

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Fire in the Cabin

Because there is so much oxygen in the cabin, a fire is a likely scenario, reports The Guardian. "For this reason, petroleum-based skin creams and makeup are typically banned in deep dives, but fires can still take hold and swiftly produce smoke that intoxicates those on board," said the outlet.

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Software Crash

Stockton Rush
Source: Instagram/@oceangate

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush

In conversation with Sky News Australia, associate professor Eric Fuzzi, director of the shipbuilding hub at University of Adelaide, told the outlet a crash in the submersible's software was certainly a possibility. The Titan has very "advanced technology in terms of touch screen and hardened PlayStation controllers to have a very intuitive steering of the submersible." If a system error occurred, the captain would be unable to steer the vessel.

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