Manned Submersible Completes 4,000-Meter Validation Dive
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush successfully piloted the deep-diving, five-person submersible, Titan, on a solo 4,000-meter dive. Rush joins James Cameron as the second person in history to complete a solo dive to this depth.
The 4,000-meter validation dive took place on Monday, December 10, 2018 approximately 12 miles east of Little Harbour on Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. The dive was the culmination of a testing program that began in 2016 with four pressure tests of a scale model, followed by construction and launch of the largest known submersible carbon fiber and titanium pressure vessel.
Testing of Titan began in Puget Sound with 20 shallow manned dives, followed by a series of unmanned dives in the Bahamas to proof test the pressure hull to 4,000 meters in June 2018. Initial testing was postponed due to lightning damage to the vehicle’s electronics that caused a delay of the 2018 Titanic Survey Expedition, which has been moved to 2019. Throughout the summer, hidden lightning damage and unseasonably adverse weather caused additional delays to the testing schedule.
Manned dive operations were conducted in the Bahamas from July to December to validate the submarine vehicle at specific depths. The December validation dive to 4,000 meters took seven hours to complete and included multiple pauses during the descent in order to assess the integrity of the hull on the vehicle’s acoustic real time monitoring (RTM) system.
The RTM system is used to assess the health of the hull during dives. It uses acoustic sensors to detect sounds emitted by the carbon fiber material as it responds to the external pressure, as well as using strain gauges to measure the physical deflection. The RTM system makes it possible for Titan pilots to predict a potential failure, stop the descent and safely return to the surface.
This final step in depth validation means Titan is ready for its first major expedition: the 2019 Titanic Survey Expedition. Scheduled to begin in June 2019, it will be the first manned survey of the Titanic wreck site since 2005. Throughout the six-week expedition, scientists, content experts and citizen explorers known as mission specialists will join the expedition crew to digitally document and preserve the historic wreck and debris field. Laser scan data and images will be used to accurately assess the rate of decay and produce a 3D virtual model for research and media purposes. —OceanGate Inc.