James Cameron, the “Titanic” director and experienced deep-sea explorer who has visited the infamous ship’s wreckage site dozens of times, says he “wouldn’t have gotten in” the submersible from OceanGate Expeditions, claiming the private company “cut corners.”
Many in the submergence-diving community had concerns about the safety of the Titan, he told ABC News. Cameron acknowledged he was among them, telling the BBC that OceanGate “cut corners” in building the submersible and “didn’t get certified because they knew they wouldn’t pass.”
“I was very suspect of the technology that they were using,” said Cameron, who has made 33 dives to the wreckage of the Titanic. “I wouldn’t have gotten in that sub.”
He added to Reuters: “OceanGate shouldn’t have been doing what it was doing. I think that’s pretty clear.”
U.S. Navy officials said Thursday that acoustic sensors detected the Titan’s likely implosion hours after it began its descent Sunday, before the multiday search for the vessel played out.
Cameron said he knew days ago that the Titan had probably imploded. He told CNN that his deep-sea explorer contacts told him the vessel had reportedly lost communication and tracking simultaneously.
“The only scenario that I could come up with in my mind that could account for that was an implosion,” Cameron told Anderson Cooper. He described what he believes happened as “a shock wave event so powerful that it actually took out a secondary system that has its own pressure vessel and its own battery power supply.”
The sentiment was echoed by Brandon Whited, a trustee for the Titanic International Society, who told The Washington Post: “We all kind of felt in the back of our minds that this was a likely outcome.”
When the U.S. Coast Guard led the exhaustive search in hopes of finding the missing submersible, Cameron said to the BBC that it “felt like a prolonged and nightmarish charade where people are running around talking about banging noises and talking about oxygen and all this other stuff.”
“We knew instantly that it was game over,” Cameron told ABC.
The Coast Guard announced Thursday that the submersible vessel underwent a “catastrophic implosion” that killed the five passengers onboard, including OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush. Rear Adm. John Mauger said at a news conference that a remotely operated underwater vehicle searching the ocean floor found five major pieces of the submersible in two areas of debris near the Titanic wreckage, which sits 12,500 feet underwater hundreds of miles off the coast of Newfoundland.
The Coast Guard will continue searching the area, but authorities could not say what the prospects were for recovering the passengers’ bodies, Mauger said. They did not yet know exactly when the vessel imploded or why but said it probably happened before rescue efforts began.
The safety measures taken by OceanGate and Rush, its now-deceased CEO, on the submersible have been called into question by maritime regulation experts and experienced mariners. The shape of the vessel and material used to build it have been criticized as insufficient to prevent disaster. Rush also publicly talked about how he had “broken some rules to make” the submersible.
“I think I’ve broken them with logic and good engineering behind me,” Rush said in a previous interview.
Cameron has made more than 70 submersible dives, including 33 to the Titanic, logging more hours on that ship than Capt. Edward Smith himself, according to National Geographic. He explored the Titanic’s disintegrating wreckage in the 2003 documentary “Ghosts of the Abyss.” Cameron’s representatives did not immediately respond to an interview request Friday.
Cameron is among a group of explorers who have spoken out about their concerns regarding the OceanGate submersible. Josh Gates, host of the Discovery show “Expedition: Unknown,” tweeted this week that he passed on an opportunity to be in the OceanGate submersible in 2021 because of what he described as “concerning” safety issues.
Whited pointed to the comments from Cameron and Gates as confirmation for what he and others agreed had happened with the submersible.
“Initially, I wanted to think the battery had given out or something like that,” he told The Post. “But as time went on, it had been drilled into our heads that if any crack whatsoever develops, even the most minute one, it will just implode. That’s what came to my mind. That was sort of in my gut.”
Cameron recounted to CNN that he was told Monday from those in the deep-sea diving community that “there was some kind of loud noise that was consistent with an implosion event.”
“That seemed to me enough confirmation that I let all of my inner circle of people know that we had lost our comrades, and I encouraged all of them to raise a glass in their honor on Monday,” Cameron told Cooper.
The director said that one of the victims aboard the submersible, former French navy commander Paul-Henri Nargeolet, was a friend of his for 25 years. Saddened by the loss of life, Cameron was taken aback by the symmetry between what happened in 1912 and what unfolded a few days ago.
“I’m struck by the similarity of the Titanic disaster itself, where the captain was repeatedly warned about ice ahead of his ship, and yet he steamed at full speed into an ice field on a moonless night. And many people died as a result,” Cameron told ABC. “And for this very similar tragedy where warnings went unheeded to take place at the same exact site with all the diving that’s going on all around the world I think is just astonishing.”
But the director emphasized to Reuters that he wishes he would have been more vocal about his opposition to how OceanGate built its submersible and the materials it used for a vessel that eventually imploded.
“I wish I had spoken up, but I assumed somebody was smarter than me, because I had never experimented with that technology,” Cameron said, referring to the lighter carbon fiber composite hull of the Titan. “But it just sounded bad on its face.”
Missing Titanic submersible
The latest: After an extensive search, the Coast Guard found debris fields that have been indentified as the Titan submersible. OceanGate, the tour company, has said all 5 passengers are believed dead.
The Titan: The voyage to see the Titanic wreckage is eight days long, costs $250,000 and is open to passengers age 17 and older. The Titan is 22 feet long, weighs 23,000 pounds and “has about as much room as a minivan,” according to CBS correspondent David Pogue. Here’s what we know about the missing submersible.
The search: The daunting mission covers the ocean’s surface and the vast depths beneath. The search poses unique challenges that are further complicated by the depths involved. This map shows the scale of the search near the Titanic wreckage.
The passengers: Hamish Harding, an aviation businessman, aircraft pilot and seasoned adventurer, posted on Instagram that he was joining the expedition and said retired French navy commander Paul-Henri Nargeolet was also onboard. British Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his son, Suleman, 19, were also on the expedition, their family confirmed. The CEO of OceanGate, the submersible expedition company, was also on the vessel. Here’s what we know about the five missing passengers.