Find out what it’s like to steer a submersible

The Titan submersible that has gone missing near the wreck of the Titanic isn’t the only sub in OceanGate’s fleet: Back in 2019, the company took me down to the bottom of Puget Sound in a sub called Cyclops.

Almost four years later, it’s eerie to be keeping track of a far more dramatic dive that has put the Titan’s five crew members in mortal peril. One of those crew members is OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, who was my guide for the three-hour tour of Possession Sound, a pocket of Puget Sound not far from the company’s HQ in Everett, Wash.

At the time, OceanGate was coping with some logistical complications that forced a postponement of its first planned series of Titan dives to the Titanic, more than 12,500 feet beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean. The company was also gearing up for stress tests of Titan’s hull. (Those tests ended up identifying structural shortcomings that needed to be addressed.)

In the meantime, Rush and his team took on underwater projects that were closer to home and within the technical capabilities of Cyclops 1, the five-person submersible that was a precursor for Titan. (OceanGate also has an older sub called Antipodes, which looks a bit like the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.)

OceanGate used Cyclops that summer to take researchers to the bottom of Puget Sound for marine biology surveys conducted in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. GeekWire photographer Kevin Lisota and I were invited to ride along on a sunny day in August.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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