alright. in my tepidly professional opinion* here are the actual major red flags with the titanic submersible

first, stuff that people are clowning on that isn’t actually a red flag at all

using starlink satcoms for their overall [surface] communications

  • i know it’s fun to clown on elon musk but starlinks are like. Fine. they work fine as satcoms. this is not the issue. none of these problems would have been solved if they’d been using KVH or somebody else instead
  • also these have fuck all to do with the tiny sub, since radio waves physically do not penetrate water enough to be useful for communications lol

the stupid game controller to steer

  • it’s actually super common to use COTS (commercial off the shelf) parts like that instead of some bespoke steering system.
  • they’re easily replaceable if they break, they’re designed to be integrated into larger systems, and you don’t have to do a huge amount of design work before you can even steer your thing
  • here’s one example of this. but it’s pretty common

that being said. here is the fucked up design stuff that i notice

Where The Fuck Are The Chairs

  • if you don’t have seats inside your vessel, you don’t actually have a way of securing passengers during rough movement. i suspect that this makes it very dangerous or difficult to ascend quickly in an emergency.

they have had known issues with communication

He continued: “The phrase we keep hearing is ‘they’ve lost communication’ and I’ve gotta say I did three separate dives, I did one dive to the Titanic and two more off the coast of New York and every time they lost communication.

[source: the independent]

  • i will grant that underwater communications is not an easy problem to solve unless you’re physically running telephone wires
  • but this is fucking unacceptable lol
Most astonishingly, the craft is controlled by a generic video games controller – specifically a Logitech F710 Wireless PC Gamepad from 2011, according to gaming expert Matthew Ruddle – and, rather than using a GPS for navigation, it communicates with a tracking team aboard a surface ship, in this case the Polar Prince, via text messages.ALT

[source: the independent]

  • ignore the video game controller thing
  • i presume that they mean “messages in the form of text, sent via an acoustic signal”, not “they are literally using cell phones to text each other” because obvs cell phones (and most radio) would not work
  • it’s actually extremely unclear to me what system the sub and the mothership are using to communicate. idk if this is a “technology reporting hard” issue or if these people are being deliberately cagey. anyway they’re probably using some form of underwater acoustic communications, but what specific form it takes idk
  • regardless, the fact that they’ve had problems with this system in the past is a red flag
  • and the fact that their sub has apparently no internal navigation system is also a red flag. “not having GPS” isn’t really, since GPS doesn’t really work underwater (you need radio 😔), but they should have some kind of internal navigation– at the very least “here is my speed and heading and based on that my expected position is here on a map”

in a power failure situation, they would have been SOL

“Everything else is done with touch screens and computers, and so you really become part of the vehicle and everybody gets to know everyone pretty well.”ALT

[source: the independent]

  • “everything is done with computers” = “nothing works in the event of a power failure”
  • it seems like AT THE VERY LEAST in the event of a power failure, you need to be able to drop your ballast and ascend quickly.
  • it is not clear that they had the capability to do that

something weird going on with their pressure hull

The hull of the Titan vessel "showed signs of cyclic fatigue," according to a January 2020 interview with OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, who is aboard the missing vessel. Rush told GeekWire that due to that stress, the hull rating was downgraded to a depth of 3,000 meters, 800 meters short of the Titanic's depth.ALT

[source: nbc]

while it is “normal” for structures that are exposed to regular massive changes in pressure to have fatigue (imagine bending a piece of metal in and out over and over, eventually it will break– you want to catch and replace that before it happens), it’s weird to me that

  • the vessel’s depth rating was downgraded
  • without any public statement about what repairs were done, it nevertheless went back to the 4000ft depth less than a year later (in 2021)

they obviously have no “black box” system or any way to locate a missing vessel

  • most boats are required to have this! because most boats are required to be registered with and inspected by various authorities!
  • these guys deliberately skirted that rule by launching off a boat rather than from a port and therefore avoiding the need to get registered or inspected. lmao!
Mr. Kohnen said in the interview that Mr. Rush, OceanGate’s chief executive, called him after reading the letter and told him that industry regulations were stifling innovation. In a 2019 blog post titled “Why Isn’t Titan Classed?” the company made similar arguments.

OceanGate said in the post that because its Titan craft was so innovative, it could take years to get it certified by leading assessment agencies. “Bringing an outside entity up to speed on every innovation before it is put into real-world testing is anathema to rapid innovation,” the company wrote.ALT

[source: nyt]

Company Culture Is The Killer

complete disregard for safety is really what killed these people

Princeton graduate and Titan submarine entrepreneur insisted Atlantic dives were not dangerous and once said: ‘At some point, safety just is pure waste. If you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed’ ALT

[source: the independent]

obviously if this is your CEO your company culture is totally fucked. beyond saving. you do not have a regard for human life.

for reasons unknown they didn’t flag the authorities that the vessel was missing for hours and hours

Sunday 18 June:

     9am ADT: Dive operation begins. 
    11.47am ADT: Last communication between Titan and the surface staff of OceanGate is recorded.
    6.10pm ADT: Time Titan was scheduled to resurface.
    6.35pm ADT: Authorities are notified and a response operation is initiated.ALT

[source: the independent]

not that it likely would have helped to save these people if they had been alerted earlier, but it shows a desire to cover up mistakes

and like. obviously. you should get your shit inspected. nobody taking paying passengers anywhere should be allowed to be their own safety inspection authority.

the original sinking of the titanic was what led to SOLAS (safety of life at sea) rules being instituted. they’ve been updated several times since then, but they don’t yet cover submersibles like this, since they are relatively new. it’s likely that this incident will cause a new interest in updating the rules. as they say: every regulation is written in blood

*i’m a mechanical engineer who works in the maritime industry, but not like, a particularly related section of the industry– i do shit with cargo containers mainly. no further info on my credentials will be given since i have no desire to doxx myself on tumblr dot edu. i’ve tried not to say anything too wrong or out of my depth in this post but my opinion is “guy with an engineering degree who reads news articles” level of informed. so take your maximum grains of salt