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GeekWire

Explorers solve a 26-year-old mystery near the Titanic

During an expedition to the Titanic back in 1996, submersible pilot PH Nargeolet noticed a curious sonar blip that was coming from a site near the wreck. Was it a previously undetected piece of wreckage? An unexplored geological feature?

Twenty-six years ago, the pilot wasn’t in a position to investigate further. But now a totally different Titanic expedition has solved the mystery, with Nargeolet serving as part of the team.

Data collected during this summer’s dives by Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate and Bahamas-based OceanGate Expeditions — plus the scientific analysis supported by the nonprofit OceanGate Foundation — reveal that the blip came from a volcanic ridge that serves as a home for corals, sponges and other deep-sea denizens.

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GeekWire

OceanGate’s founder looks beyond the Titanic

When it comes to undersea adventures, can anything match seeing the 110-year-old wreck of the Titanic with your own eyes? Stockton Rush, OceanGate Expeditions’ president and chief submersible pilot, intends to find out.

Over the past couple of years, OceanGate Expeditions — and its sister company, Everett-based OceanGate Inc. — have repeatedly pulled off the difficult feat of sending a crewed submersible down to the Titanic, a luxury liner that tragically sank during its first voyage in 1912.

With Rush in the pilot’s seat, OceanGate’s Titan submersible carried scientific experts and paying customers down to a depth of 12,500 feet to survey the Titanic wreck and its surroundings. The voyages in 2021 and 2022 have attracted plenty of attention from media outlets — including the BBC, which is airing a documentary about the dives this weekend.

During a talk delivered at the GeekWire Summit on Oct. 7, Rush recapped OceanGate’s business plan and looked ahead to the company’s future frontiers.

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GeekWire

High-def Titanic video reveals previously unseen details

Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate Expeditions set a new standard this year for documenting the condition of the 110-year-old wreck of the Titanic, thanks to a high-definition 8K video system that was installed aboard its submersible.

A sampling of the first-ever 8K video footage from the Titanic, captured during this summer’s dives in the North Atlantic, was released today. OceanGate plans to return to the wreck on an annual basis to track changes in the Titanic’s condition over time, in video resolution that’s roughly 8,000 pixels wide.

“The amazing detail in the 8K footage will help our team of scientists and maritime archaeologists characterize the decay of the Titanic more precisely as we capture new footage in 2023 and beyond,” Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions, said in an emailed statement. “Capturing this 8K footage will allow us to zoom in and still have 4K quality, which is key for large screen and immersive video projects. Even more remarkable are the phenomenal colors in this footage.”

Rory Golden, a veteran Titanic diver who’s part of the OceanGate team, said the video revealed details he hadn’t seen before.

“For example, I had never seen the name of the anchor maker, Noah Hingley & Sons Ltd., on the portside anchor,” Golden said via email. “I’ve been studying the wreck for decades and have completed multiple dives, and I can’t recall seeing any other image showing this level of detail. It is exciting that, after so many years, we may have discovered a new detail that wasn’t as obvious with previous generations of camera technologies.”

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GeekWire

OceanGate updates its view of a tattered Titanic

After his second yearly series of dives to the Titanic, the CEO and founder of Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate says the deterioration of the world’s most famous shipwreck is continuing apace.

“We’ll have some better data next year, but it definitely is in worse condition this year than it was last,” OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush told me. “It’s going through its natural consumption by the ocean.”

Rush said the decay is particularly noticeable on the sunken ship’s forward railing. Scientists on the Titanic survey team should be able to get a better fix once they analyze the scaled measurements that were made using a laser scanner attached to OceanGate’s Titan submersible.

Surveying the Titanic’s remains on a yearly basis is one of the prime missions for Titan, which was built to withstand the enormous pressures experienced almost 4,000 meters (12,600 feet) beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean.

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Fiction Science Club

True-life spy story gets an alien twist in sci-fi tale

What if one of the CIA’s most secretive and expensive Cold War operations was actually a cover story for an even more secretive, even more expensive operation … involving aliens?

That’s the question explored by science-fiction author Harry Turtledove in a new novel, “Three Miles Down.” The plot is only moderately wilder than the $800 million CIA operation on which it’s based: Project Azorian, which involved trying to raise a sunken Soviet sub from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

And as if a tale of aliens and the CIA isn’t wild enough, Turtledove works in references to the Watergate scandal and President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, which was happening at the same time as Project Azorian. Turtledove says he couldn’t resist drawing parallels between the tumult of those times and today’s political tensions.

“There are enough parallels that it sort of leaps out at you, and you aren’t really being honest with yourself or your readers if you don’t,” he says in the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast, which focuses on the intersection of science and fiction. “The only real difference is, what’s going on now is so much worse.”

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GeekWire

Science takes center stage in Titanic sequel

One year after OceanGate’s first expedition to the Titanic shipwreck, the Everett, Wash.-based company is gearing up for its second annual set of dives starting next week — and this time, science will be at center stage.

Last summer’s expedition kicked off what’s intended to be a yearly series of visits to the 110-year-old ruin, nearly 13,000 feet beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. As any movie fan knows, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank during its first voyage from England to New York in 1912, causing more than 1,500 deaths.

The shipwreck was rediscovered in 1985, and there’s been a string of crewed and robotic surveys since then. But OceanGate’s plan is different. The 13-year-old company and its research partners aim to document how the rapidly deteriorating Titanic and its surroundings are changing on a year-to-year basis — supported by customers who are paying $250,000 each to be part of the adventure.

The inaugural Titanic Survey Expedition documented the wreck site in unprecedented detail, producing a baseline for tracking future changes. OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush said that expedition was “a bit of a shakedown cruise.”

“We did have a lot of technical challenges that we think we won’t have this year,” Rush said today during an online preview of the 2022 Titanic Survey Expedition. “We had weather challenges, we had COVID challenges. So there’s a lot of that stuff, but we still got the best imagery ever taken.”

This year, OceanGate’s science team will be focusing on the biology as well as the archaeology of the Titanic’s resting place.

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GeekWire

Scientists plan to analyze DNA at Titanic wreck site

What’s lurking at the Titanic shipwreck site, nearly 13,000 beneath the surface of the North Atlantic? Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate aims to help scientists find out by cataloging the genomic signatures present in the deep ocean.

Researchers will gather up water samples at different depths during a series of dives planned by OceanGate’s Titan submersible this summer, and then analyze the samples to identify the DNA captured within.

The results are expected to give scientists a deeper understanding of deep-ocean biodiversity, and may also shed new light on some of the enduring mysteries surrounding the world’s best-known shipwreck.

“This is groundbreaking deep-sea research,” Steve W. Ross, a research professor affiliated with the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said in a news release. Ross took part in OceanGate Expeditions’ 2021 Titanic survey, and will be chief scientist for this summer’s expedition.

Over the past 110 years, the sinking of the Titanic luxury liner — and the loss of more than 1,500 passengers and crew — have provided the inspiration for countless tragic tales, including an Oscar-winning movie. Over that same time period, the rusting wreck has provided an artificial reef for life at the bottom of the sea.

“This study will give us an entirely different view of this one-of-a-kind habitat while also adding substantially to shared deep-water DNA data sets,” Ross said. “Water samples taken and analyzed using advanced genomics technologies will not only help us identify the lifeforms we can directly observe from the Titan submersible, but also will give us a full picture of the lifeforms we cannot see. This includes invisible signs of both microscopic creatures and larger animals that leave traces of DNA in the water surrounding the Titanic.”

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GeekWire

OceanGate’s sub is coming home after Titanic trips

After making a series of successful dives to the wreck of the Titanic in the North Atlantic this summer, OceanGate’s flagship submersible is returning to its homeport in Everett, Wash., where it’ll be spruced up for another round of Titanic trips.

OceanGate Expeditions officially announced that its 2022 Titanic Survey Expedition will run from next May through June, with fresh opportunities for mission specialists to take part in the adventure. (Because OceanGate’s customers contribute to operations at sea, the company doesn’t call them “tourists,” even though they’re paying OceanGate a fee of $250,000.)

The five-person Titan submersible’s dives to the Titanic, more than two miles below the sea surface, are aimed at documenting the condition of the wreck on an annual basis. This summer’s dives confirmed previous findings that the world’s most famous shipwreck is rapidly deteriorating — 109 years after the luxury liner struck an iceberg and sank, causing more than 1,500 deaths.

“Mission specialists helped our crew gather and review terabytes of the highest-resolution still images and video of Titanic and the debris field ever collected,” OceanGate Expeditions’ president, Stockton Rush, said today in a news release.

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GeekWire

The disappearing bathtub and other Titanic tales

For evidence that the wreck of the Titanic is rapidly deteriorating, you need look no further than Captain Edward Smith’s bathtub. That is, if you can find it.

The case of the disappearing bathtub, as documented by Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate Expeditions, is one of the most vivid indicators showing how fast the world’s most famous shipwreck is settling into the final stages of its decay, more than a century after it hit an iceberg and sank into the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912.

More than 1,500 passengers and crew died in the sinking, but the tale of the Titanic lives on in the annals of maritime history. The rediscovery of the wreck in 1985 grabbed headlines around the world — and James Cameron’s “Titanic” movie burnished the ship’s reputation as a cultural icon.

One of the touchstones of Titanic expeditions has been the bathtub in the doomed captain’s cabin, more than two miles beneath the ocean’s surface. As recently as a decade ago, photos clearly showed the porcelain tub sitting amid rusty ruins. But two years ago, an expedition team reported that the wreck was rapidly deteriorating and cited the state of the captain’s cabin as evidence.

“The most shocking area of deterioration was the starboard side of the officer’s quarters, where the captain’s quarters were,” Titanic historian Parks Stephenson was quoted as saying at the time. “Captain’s bathtub is a favorite image among the Titanic enthusiasts, and that’s now gone.”

So it was a given that OceanGate would try to look at the captain’s quarters this summer when its Titan submersible went on a series of 10 dives. The good news is that the bathtub hasn’t completely gone away.

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GeekWire

OceanGate sub makes its first dive to the Titanic

After years of building, testing and dealing with setbacks, Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate has sent a next-generation submersible and its crew down to the wreck site of the Titanic for the first time.

“We had to overcome tremendous engineering, operational, business [challenges], and finally COVID-19 challenges to get here, and I am so proud of this team and grateful for the support of our many partners,” OceanGate’s founder and CEO, Stockton Rush, said today in a news release.

The first fruits of OceanGate’s 12,500-foot-deep dive in the North Atlantic include photos that show the frame of a stained-glass window and fragments of floor tile from the ocean liner, which hit an iceberg and sank during its maiden voyage from England to New York in 1912.

The loss of the ship and more than 1,500 of the people who were on board — plus the wreck’s rediscovery in 1985 — made the saga of the Titanic one of the history’s best-known sea tragedies.