A federal judge says RMS Titanic Inc. can go forward with its plan to cut into the Titanic shipwreck and try retrieving the Marconi wireless telegraph machine that sent out distress calls 108 years ago.
In an order issued Monday in Norfolk, Va., District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith said RMS Titanic, the court-designated salvage firm for the Titanic, made its case that the radio had enough historic value to justify sending a specially equipped robot into the wreck. The remotely operated submersible would be equipped with tools to cut through the deckhouse if necessary.
Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate says it’s forged an agreement with NASA to support the development of carbon-fiber pressure vessels that could handle the crushing demands of deep-sea exploration — as well as the strains encountered in the vacuum of space.
The agreement calls for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama to serve as the site for developing and manufacturing a new type of aerospace-grade hull.
OceanGate said the joint design effort will be key to its plans for building a five-person submersible capable of going as deep as 6,000 meters (19,800 feet). If the company can stick to its current timetable, such a submersible would go into service next year and take on a series of dives to the wreck of the Titanic, at a depth of 12,500 feet in the North Atlantic.
Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate is signing up citizen explorers for a series of deep-sea submersible dives in the Hudson Canyon, a channel off the coast of New York City that the company calls “the Grand Canyon of the Ocean.”
OceanGate says it has raised $18.1 million in new investment, laying the financial groundwork for an expansion of its fleet of deep-sea submersibles and setting the stage for dives to the 108-year-old Titanic shipwreck in 2021.
Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate says it’ll build not just one, but two deep-sea submersibles capable of taking crews as far down as 6,000 meters (3.7 miles) beneath the ocean surface, into a zone of perpetual darkness.
The vessels will take advantage of the same carbon-fiber and titanium design that was pioneered for OceanGate’s Titan submersible, which was built for exploration of the Titanic shipwreck site, nearly 4,000 meters (2.4 miles) down.
Interest in the Titanic trips, which are due to begin next summer, is one of the factors behind the planned expansion of OceanGate’s fleet.
POSSESSION SOUND, Wash. — Steering a five-person submersible is like playing a video game, except for the fact that you’re piloting a nine-ton piece of hardware at watery depths that are inaccessible to all but the most experienced divers.
I got my chance to play this week during a survey dive in a pocket of Puget Sound known as Possession Sound, courtesy of OceanGate, a manufacturer and operator of submersibles that’s headquartered in Everett, Wash.
During our three-hour tour, GeekWire photographer Kevin Lisota and I were taken around the sound at depths ranging as low as 350 feet, in OceanGate’s Cyclops submersible. We even played a supporting role in finding a colony of anemones in an unexpected underwater setting.
The trip was part of a summertime expedition to get a better sense of the ecosystem on the bottom of Puget Sound, in collaboration with researchers from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Based on a newly completed expedition, they’ll see a hulk that’s decomposing almost before their eyes.
That’s the word from members of a deep-ocean exploration team who visited the site, nearly 13,000 feet beneath the surface, during a 10-day expedition in late July and early August.
Team leaders included Caladan Oceanic explorer/pilot Victor Vescovo, Titanic historian Parks Stephenson and Rob McCallum of EYOS Expeditions. With the aid of a technical crew from Triton Submarines, they surveyed the wreck during a series of five dives in the DSSV Limiting Factor, a two-person Triton 36,000/2 submersible.
The exploration team captured 4K video footage of the wreck using cameras that were specially adapted for the bone-chilling, high-pressure environment of the deep. The imagery will be used in a forthcoming documentary film by Atlantic Productions – and transformed into photorealistic 3-D models of the Titanic site for augmented-reality and virtual-reality platforms.
Stephenson said he was shocked to see how the wreck has deteriorated. Salt corrosion, metal-eating bacteria and deep currents are contributing to the decay.
“The most shocking area of deterioration was the starboard side of the officer’s quarters, where the captain’s quarters were,” he said in a news release. “The captain’s bathtub is a favorite image among the Titanic enthusiasts, and that’s now gone. That whole deck house on that side is collapsing, taking with it the staterooms, and the deterioration is going to continue advancing.”
Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate has had to postpone this summer’s deep-sea dives to the Titanic shipwreck, just as they were about to start, due to complications relating to the expedition’s intended mothership.
The complications have to do with the status of the Norwegian-flagged MV Havila Harmony under Canadian maritime law, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush told GeekWire today. The ship’s operators at Reach Subsea feared that the ship might be impounded if the expedition went forward as planned, Rush said.
Rush said that the issue cropped up on June 7, and that the resulting complications couldn’t be resolved in time to do this year’s Titanic Survey Expedition. The first departure from St. John’s, Newfoundland, had been scheduled for June 28.
OceanGate set a deep-diving record last week when a crew of four rode inside the Everett, Wash.-based company’s Titan submersible to the Titanic-level depth of 3,760 meters (12,336 feet) in the Bahamas.
The April 17 voyage, which served as a test run for this summer’s trips to the wreck of the Titanic, marked the first time a non-military submersible carried more than three people to that depth, OceanGate said.
“This dive was another important step toward deep-sea exploration to more people and places,” OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, who served as Titan’s chief pilot for the trip, said today in a news release. “We are developing technologies and designing submersibles and infrastructure that is making underwater exploration more accessible than ever before.”
Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate is heading back down to the Bahamas next week to practice deep-sea dives of Titanic proportions with its next-generation Titan submersible — and this time, team members are bringing along paying customers.
About 10 mission specialists wll accompany OceanGate’s team for rehearsals that will involve sending Titan down to depths of nearly 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). That’s as far down as the famous wreck of the Titanic lies in the North Atlantic.
This month’s rehearsal follows up on a series of deep dives done by OceanGate last year. The plan doesn’t call for mission specialists to climb into the submersible this time around, OceanGate marketing manager Dana Hall told GeekWire. Instead, they’ll be on the R/V Angari, the expedition’s tracking and communications ship.
The goal is to familiarize at least some of OceanGate’s customers with the duties they’ll be performing when Titan and its support vessels head up to Newfoundland for 10-day voyages to the Titanic site that are due to start in June.