The Oceangate Titan Submersible is now called an accident waiting to happen, today we dive deep into the ocean to discover the Top 10 deep sea disasters like the Oceangate Titan.
10. Kursk Accident
One of the most famous submarine disasters of the 20th century, Kursk was a nuclear-powered Oscar II class submarine taking part in the first major Russian naval exercise in more than 10 years.
Located in the Barents Sea, one of the most hospitable places on earth, Kursk had recently won a citation for its excellent performance and been recognised as having the best submarine crew in the Northern Fleet.
Fully-loaded with a complement of conventional combat weapons, the sub had a mythical standing and was said to be unsinkable, even from a direct torpedo strike.
That reputation was blown apart on the 12th August 2000 when the crew initiated a torpedo launch using dummy torpedo’s.
At 7:29am GMT, a large seismic event of magnitude 1.5 on the Richter scale was detected at the Norwegian seismic array and in other locations around the world.
A second seismic event was detected 2 minutes and 14 seconds after the first, this time, measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale, 250 times larger than the first and detected across seismographs in Northern Europe.
Twelve hours later, searches for the doomed submarine began with the Russian Navy initially downplaying the incident, even going as far to say the naval exercise had been a resounding success.
In reality, the submarine was on the seabed, taking on water and running out of air while several attempts at rescue had failed.
Finally on the 20th August, access to the rescue trunk was achieved but no survivors were found with a massive torpedo explosion later deemed the cause of the disaster.
9. K-8 – Project 627A
On her first operational patrol in the Barents Sea on April 7, 1989, disaster struck this soviet nuclear-powered submarine.
A fire that broke out from a short circuit in the engine room caused the submarine to make an emergency surface, allowing many to evacuate however at least half perished in the frigid waters.
After burning for hours, the sub plunged to the bottom of the ocean where it has remained ever since.
Expeditions in 1994 and 1995 revealed significant damage to the hull and several nuclear torpedo’s had to be sealed in with them to dangerous to remove.
Sea samples from around the wreck have, more recently, shown that it is up to 100,000 times more radioactive than normal, meaning the core may becoming more unstable.
8. Losharik Disaster
Another nuclear-powered Russian submarine known for its deep-diving capability, this sub was designated for research, rescue, and special military operations.
A spy submarine that could possibly be used to tap into or sever underwater telecommunications cables, while very few photographs of the sub exist to this day.
After a major fire broke out, 14 members of the subs high-ranking crew died including the captains of seven other subs, 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
Believed to be operating at a possible depth of 20,000 feet, the titanium spheres within the sub allowed it to withstand great pressure at those depths.
The submarine was saved in this instance, albeit with a large loss of life and was later towed to the Russian Northern Fleet base at Severomorsk.
7. ARA San Juan Sinking
Disappearing off the coast of Argentina while on a training exercise, a search lasting 15 days was conducted by the Argentine Navy.
The TR-1700-class diesel-electric submarine was part of a navy exercise in Tierra del Fuego and was underway to her home port at Mar del Plata.
The 44 servicemen on board the missing submarine included Argentina’s first female submarine officer but carried no more than 7-days worth of oxygen when submerged.
On the 16th November 2018 the sub was found in the Atlantic Ocean at a depth of 907 metres, almost a year after it had sunk.
Damage to the sub was catastrophic with an imploded pressure hull and the bow section, sail and propellers scattered in an area of 8,000 square metres.
A monument commemorating the 44 crew members lost was unveiled in front of the Mar del Plata Naval Base in 2021.
6. Ming 361 Disaster
After increasing training and exercises of its submarines in the east to carry out a policy of “sea denial” to counter the US Pacific Fleet, 361 was part of the 12th Submarine Brigade of the North Sea Fleet.
While on exercise in the Yellow Sea off the coast of Northeastern China, the submarine suffered a malfunction with its diesel engine.
The engine had failed to shut down properly causing a carbon monoxide incident and used up all oxygen on-board.
While the submarine had surfaced, it drifted partially underwater for 10-days before being discovered by Chinese fishermen.
All 70 crew were found slumped over their stations, appearing to have died before becoming aware of the dangerous fumes filling the cabin.
5. USS Thresher Disaster
The lead boat of her class of nuclear-powered attack submarines at the time, USS Thresher was named after the thresher shark.
After conducting deep-diving tests about 220 miles east of Cape Cod, the sub sent several garbled messages to the surface.
A large search was conducted for the sub but to no avail and in 1964 a larger search was conducted.
Found on the sea floor, the shattered remains of the wreck lay 8,400 feet below the surface in 5 different pieces.
Understood to have been caused by a broken pipe joint shorting out one of the many electrical panels, the sub lost propulsion after its reactor was scrammed.
That coupled with an apparent inability to blow ballast sent the sub to the seafloor with an impending implosion killing all on-board.
Did you know?
Did you know that the team of scientists and researchers who found the USS Thresher and USS Scorpion actually went on to find the RMS Titanic wreckage in the same week? You do now!
4. USS Scorpion Disaster
One of two nuclear submarines the U.S. Navy has lost, Scorpion was one of the four mysterious submarine disappearances in 1968.
Attempting to send radio traffic to research stations, the captain of the sub indicated that he was closing on a Soviet submarine and research group.
Expected to arrive at her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, that was the last anyone ever heard of the sub and she was declared missing presumed lost.
In 1968 a large search discovered the wreck lying on the seabed and it was clear that a massive implosion had taken place.
3. HMS Thetis
A Group 1 T-class submarine that was part of the Royal Navy, Thetis was conducting her final diving trials when disaster struck in 1939.
Too light to dive on its first attempt, a survey of the water in the various tanks on board was made with one of these checks being whether the internal torpedo tubes were flooded.
Unfortunately, the test cock on tube number 5 was blocked by some enamel paint and a confusing layout of the bow cap indicators led to the inner door of the tube being opened.
As the sea rushed in uncontrollably, the bow of the submarine plunged to the seabed about 150 feet below the surface.
Only four crew members escaped with a fifth crew member panicking in the escape tube and opening the outer hatch too early, rendering the escape system useless.
Ninety-nine lives were lost in the incident after the cramped conditions caused those inside to be overcome by carbon dioxide poisoning.
Thetis was eventually re-floated and served in the second world war, but was sunk on the 14th March 1943 with the loss of all hands.
2. La Minerve
Until the more recent disaster at the Titanic, La Minerve was by far one of the most well-known losses of any submarine in history.
Travelling just beneath the surface in the Gulf of Lion using her snorkel, roughly 25 nautical miles from her base in Toulon, she was expected back at her berth within the hour.
She and her crew were never heard from again and a radio message less than one hour before the disappearance was the last anyone ever heard from the sub.
Having a very experienced crew on-board, bad weather had been a factor at the time of disappearance and the French navy began a search for the missing but found nothing.
With files on the sub classified by the French navy for 50 years, families fought to find out what could have happened.
With the sub being the only one not found since the end of WW2, a resumption of the search began in earnest in February 2019.
The company, Ocean Infinity, using the search ship Seabed Constructor finally found the wreck 2,350 meters (7,710 feet) below the surface in three pieces.
It appears that a catastrophic implosion had taken place below crush depth, but as of yet its unclear what caused the disaster.
1. Oceangate Titan Disaster
On the 18th June 2023, the Titan Submersible, operated by expeditions company OceanGate, began its decent to the wreck of the Titanic.
Onboard were five explorers including CEO of OceanGate, Stockton Rush, French deep sea explorer and Titanic expert, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, British billionaire businessman, Hamish Harding, Pakistani-British billionaire businessman, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman.
Titan had dived many times to the Titanic before, but due to technical difficulties, it had only reached the wreck about 13 times.
Battling multiple lawsuits and serious safety concerns, Titan was formerly known as Cyclops 2 and was 6.7-metre-long with two titanium hemispheres with matching titanium interface rings.
The carbon fibre-wound cylinder was 2.4-metres-long and contained the living space for the crew and one of the titanium hemispherical end caps was fitted with a 380 mm-diameter acrylic window.
The carbon fibre used in the design, which had been re-built several times due to cyclic fatigue, had been sourced from boeing at a discounted price, however Boeing say they have no records of sale.
A modified Logitech F710 wireless game controller was used to steer Titan the vessel contained monitoring systems to continuously monitor the strength of the hull.
Titan had several backup systems intended to return the vessel to the surface in case of emergency, including ballasts that could be dropped, a balloon, thrusters, and sandbags held by hooks.
Around 1 hour and 45 minutes into the dive, Titan lost contact with its support ship, The Polar Prince and later that day the sub failed to resurface sparking a major search and rescue effort.
After more than four days of searching by the United States Coast Guard, US Navy, and Canadian Coast Guard, the search intensified with help from the respective countries air forces.
Titan was finally discovered over 1,600 feet from the bow of Titanic and was lying in a debris field covering around 500 meters.
Signs of an implosion were consistent with the sonar detection of an acoustic signature picked up by the United States Navy around the same time communications ceased.
Deaths for all five occupants on-board would have been instantaneous with timelines suggesting the implosion took less than one millisecond, with the human brain around 150 milliseconds to register an event.
Believed to have been 3,500m below sea level at the time of implosion, the weight of the ocean outside would have been equivalent to an Eiffel tower standing on-top of the sub.
Air inside a sub would have auto-ignited due to the high concentration of hydrocarbon vapours with those inside knowing nothing about what was happening.
On the 28th June, 2023, the remains of the Titan were returned to St. John’s Harbour.
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