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Dive Into Chaos: An Inside Look at OceanGate’s Submarine Misadventures

A deep-sea voyage organized by OceanGate, a well-known underwater exploration company, had to be abruptly halted in 2010 when the battery compartment of the submersible flooded, resulting in substantial damage. The startling revelations came from insiders involved in the venture, who collectively painted a picture of a disarrayed operation where safety norms took a backseat.

Scott Cassell, a seasoned underwater explorer who has spent three decades diving into the depths of the ocean, partnered with OceanGate for the expedition near Catalina Island off the Californian coast. His experience was far from smooth sailing, “It was a fiasco in every sense of the word,” Cassell said.

Tragically, a recent expedition by OceanGate to the Titanic resulted in five fatalities, including OceanGate’s CEO, Stockton Rush. The disastrous incident prompted Cassell to voice his concerns about the company’s seemingly casual approach to safety.

OceanGate brought Cassell onboard in 2009 to help train their crew in operating the Antipodes, their 13.5-foot submersible capable of descending to depths of 936 feet. Despite having met industry standards, Cassell observed that Rush made numerous tweaks to the submersible, which he believed compromised its safety.

“After a vessel passes the American Bureau of Shipping, it’s classified as-is. Any modifications unclassify it,” Cassell pointed out. The suggested alterations were eventually undone and the sub was restored to its original design.

The 2010 mission, which promised extensive exploration of undersea ecosystems around Catalina Island and even involved local high school students as ‘Youth Ambassadors’, was a collaborative effort between OceanGate and Cassell’s nonprofit, Undersea Voyager Project. However, the expedition was cut short following the submersible damage, after only seven out of the planned 30 dives.

Cassell, who was asked to skip the ill-fated eighth dive to accommodate Rush’s wealthy acquaintances, revealed that the mishap occurred due to an overlooked vent cap in the pre-dive inspection. Sidney Loomis, a 16-year-old ‘Youth Ambassador’ at the time, recalls the expeditions being “disorganized and chaotic,” although she appreciated her interactions with Rush.

While the exact fault for the blunder remains contested, it’s clear the damage had considerable repercussions, not only resulting in an estimated $10,000 repair bill but also potentially costing the company up to $100,000 in lost opportunities for client dives.

As underwater exploration becomes an increasingly lucrative market, incidents such as these underscore the importance of meticulous planning and a staunch commitment to safety. For companies like OceanGate, the stakes have never been higher.