June 29, 2023

Titan Sub

“A submersible carrying five people to the Titanic imploded near the site of the shipwreck and killed everyone on board, authorities said [last] Thursday, bringing a tragic end to a saga that included an urgent around-the-clock search and a worldwide vigil for the missing vessel.” AP News

Human remains have likely been recovered from the wreckage… the U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday. The news came hours after the announcement that debris from the Titan, collected from the seafloor more than 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) below the surface of the North Atlantic, had arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland.” AP News

Many on both sides highlight the documented safety concerns with the vessel:

“In public statements, the company and its CEO Stockton Rush repeatedly name-dropped NASA, Boeing, and the University of Washington when discussing its process designing and engineering the Titan submersible, but those links appear to have been overstated or exaggerated… Officials at the University of Washington told ABC News that the university’s Applied Physics Laboratory had once partnered with OceanGate on a shallow-diving submersible but not the Titan

“A NASA spokesperson meanwhile told ABC News that it consulted on materials and manufacturing for OceanGate when it was developing and engineering the Titan submersible but that ‘NASA did not conduct testing and manufacturing via its workforce or facilities, which was done elsewhere by OceanGate.’ A Boeing spokesperson told ABC News that the company ‘was not a partner on the Titan and did not design or build it.’”

Chas Danner, New York Magazine

“When operating at the limits of human technology, safety and redundancy are of paramount importance. The more that I’ve learned about Ocean Gate and the Titan, the more I’ve been appalled at the lack of concern for safety… In 2022, CEO Stockton Rush told CBS News, ‘At some point, safety just is pure waste. I mean, if you just want to be safe, don't get out of bed. Don't get in your car. Don't do anything.’…

“This is not the attitude that I’d want from the guy building a machine to take me 12,000 feet underwater. Some risk is necessary, but Rush’s attitude makes me think less that his risks were carefully calculated and more that he carelessly disregarded basic safety protocols in building his craft. I wouldn’t want to trust my life to a $50 video game controller and I definitely wouldn’t want to go to 12,000 feet sitting next to a window that was only rated to 4,500 feet. If the allegations are true, they paint a picture of flagrant disregard for safety.”

David Thornton, Racket News

“Getting into a contraption that has Camper World shelves and is controlled by an Xbox game controller doesn’t sound like a trailblazer—it sounds reckless, stupid, and suicidal. Just over 11,000 people have climbed Everest. Three hundred and ten have died trying. Guess what none of them did, even the dead ones? None of them tried that climb with store-bought gear. No one was wearing Lululemon leggings and a coat they bought at Ross Dress For Less. Sorry, I am not getting into a submarine that has features that are sold at an outdoor store or Best Buy.”

Jim Thompson, RedState

“This is not just a story about a submersible and a few wealthy explorers. It’s about the ways in which our current business climate can sacrifice safety measures and human life for speed and profit. Much of the pushback to regulation in commercial transportation is that regulation will deter innovation. But this is a short-sighted and frankly rote argument that fails to take into account how planes, trains, cars and other vehicles have still been able to advance their technology alongside public-protecting regulation…

“This tragedy is also a striking example of how the private sector never wants government involvement or intervention until disaster strikes. It was not a private company that swooped in to recover the vessel, but the taxpayer-funded U.S. Coast Guard. Although OceanGate ignored safety experts and set themselves up to skirt U.S. regulation and conduct tours in international waters, the Coast Guard still expended huge amounts of resources on the search and rescue expedition. Essentially, the public has had to subsidize the recklessness of this company.”

Chris McLamb and Marlene Koury, Los Angeles Times

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“While it’s only natural to be glued to the Titan story, it’s far from the only recent maritime tragedy in recent weeks… [Two weeks ago] one of the worst tragedies that has ever occurred on the Mediterranean Sea took place: a fishing boat carrying about 750 people, mainly Pakistani and Afghan migrants, capsized on its way to Italy. There were 100 children below deck in that ship…

“Hundreds of dead and missing migrants have failed to garner anywhere near the amount of attention from the US media as five rich adventurers… The rescue efforts also couldn’t be more different: a frantic rush to save five wealthy people versus a shoulder shrug at the idea of 100 children dead at the bottom of the sea…

“It’s human nature to feel overwhelmed by suffering at scale; it’s called psychic numbing. As the saying goes, one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. The people on that boat weren’t statistics, though. They were human beings who deserve better.”

Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian

From the Right

“How could they have taken such a monumental risk? They were bolted inside a cramped, 22-foot-long vessel equipped with only enough oxygen for several days that could go farther down in the depths than almost anything that could conceivably rescue them if something went wrong. Why do that? For the same reason men have been driven to voyage on the sea, and venture under it when possible, from time immemorial…

The quest for adventure, profit, survival and freedom have long motivated these nautical undertakings, and insane risk-taking has often been part of the bargain. We rightly honor Ferdinand Magellan, but it takes only a cursory review of his famous 1519 voyage circumnavigating the globe — the mutinies, the appalling loss of life, the risky expeditions ashore — to realize he was not operating by a normal risk-benefit calculus. Sure enough, he was killed in a battle on a Pacific island. The surviving men and ships returned from the epic journey nearly three years after it began.”

Rich Lowry, New York Post

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