Home News Titan meteorite disaster forces global rethinking of deep-sea exploration

Titan meteorite disaster forces global rethinking of deep-sea exploration


On June 18, 2023, the Titan submersible exploded while diving to the site where the Titanic sank, killing five crew members. Paul-Henri Nagiolet This was Nargeolet’s 38th dive into a sunken liner. He was known as “Mr. Titanic” and helped salvage Thousands of artifacts The works have been exhibited in museums and events around the world.

A year later, the company where he was head of underwater research was preparing July Adventure In the future, the project will use a pair of robots to replace people in the submersible to find more treasures.

Jessica SandersThe president of RMS Titanic, which organized the expedition, said: “Artifact recovery is an art and there is a human element to it that technology can never replace – nor should it ever be replaced.” She said Mr Nargeolet embodied that expertise.

On the other hand, she said the results of the robotic expeditions “will speak for themselves.”

The plan by Mr. Nargeolet’s former employer illustrates one of the most immediate consequences of the Titan disaster: giving priority to robots, which are considered safer, to navigate the icy depths instead of humans.

Meanwhile, players in the submersible industry are pushing for stronger international regulation to prevent another disaster. They hope to close a loophole exploited by Titan maker OceanGate to sidestep voluntary safety certifications used by the industry to mitigate significant risks to deep-sea divers.

Many fans of human submersibles hope Mr. Nargeolet’s legacy will point the way for a new generation of explorers. That could include future human pilots who will salvage more of the Titanic’s wreckage and its paraphernalia — rivets, fine china, champagne bottles — scattered across the roughly 1,000-meter-high spit of Titanic. Three square miles North Atlantic seabed.

On his final dive, Nargeolet hoped to catch a glimpse of one of his long-cherished salvage targets: Wireless Telegraph Satellite transmitting Titanic’s distress call. Responding ships rescued hundreds of survivors, including women and children in lifeboats. His autobiographyMr Nalgiolet said the Titanic wreckage around the famous telegraph “is likely to collapse in the short term”, making its rescue “even more urgent”.

James Cameron, best known for the 1997 film Titanic, also favors restoring the telegraph. “It would be very moving to millions of museum-goers if it were actually put on public display,” he said. Said in an interview last year.

When Nargeolet first dived into the Titanic in 1987, underwater robots were still rare. Cold War spin-offs This caused their capabilities and numbers to soar. Robert D. Crist Marine Technology Association Industry GroupThey now number in the thousands, and perhaps a hundred or so divers could sink to the Titanic’s more than two miles deep, the Times reported.

The large undersea robots are equipped with lights, computers, cameras, mapping systems, sensors and robotic arms. Most have long tethers connecting them to the mother ship. At the top, operators use joysticks and monitors to coordinate the actions below.

The July Titanic expedition will use two submersibles from the Chouest Group, a Louisiana-based family of companies that serves the offshore oil industry. Announce Acquired another company to expand its undersea robotics fleet to more than 100.

“For years I was puzzled as to why anyone still built deep-sea submersibles,” said industry pioneer Tyler Schilling. Schilling Robotics “I think the Titan situation is the only reasonable answer — people want to take risks,” one astronaut in Davis, California, said of the crewed spacecraft.

Submersible supporters say the risk factor is real and healthy because it helps to expand public appreciation for the wonders of the world’s oceans.

A new generation of manned submersibles is expected to enhance their appeal. They are called bubble submarines. Transparent plastic spherical shell It allows passengers to enjoy the stunning panoramic scenery instead of just glimpsing the scenery outside through the narrow portholes.

A bubble submarine strong enough to withstand the tremendous pressure of the Titanic’s deep sea is taking shape. Poseidon submarineA company in Sebastian, Florida, is offering Larry ConnorOhio billionaire and ocean explorer. Triton explain It will set a record for the depth of a bubble submarine dive.

The new submersible is designed to show the world that — contrary to last year’s disaster — an underwater vehicle can safely and repeatedly dive to the Titanic’s depths.

“A few years ago, something like this would have been impossible,” Triton Submarines President Patrick Lahey said of the new submarines, but he added that technological advances “allow us to do this safely.”

For example, Mr. Leahy said that steady progress in heating and forming thermoplastic materials would allow Triton to make very strong transparent walls for the submersible. They would be 16 inches thick — a record, he said. The two-person submersible would make its first trip to the sea in early 2026, Mr. Leahy added.

Triton as a company Proud Titan Submersible lack — Expensive inspections and testing by a reputable marine organization that specializes in certifying the safety of deep-sea vessels. It’s an industry-wide code of conduct that experts now say needs to become a global requirement because Titan’s makers omitted the voluntary step.

“It has to be mandatory.” Alfred S. McLaren“Unless you get these testing and certification rules in place, it’s a big, open ocean and stupid things can happen,” retired Navy submariner, submersible pilot and president emeritus of the Explorers Club said of the proposed upgrades.

Will KernanChairman of the Submarine Committee Marine Technology AssociationAgreed. “Our technology is already very mature,” he said. “We don’t need to prove we are safe. What we need is a regulatory framework that can control traffic and check if people have a license.”

Mr. Connan said there were about 200 human-piloted submersibles currently crisscrossing the world’s oceans – a tiny fraction of the total number of deep-sea robots – and only about 10 could dive to the Titanic’s depth.

Before the Titan disaster, submersibles had an excellent safety record because companies followed voluntary codes and despite thousands of dives, no one had ever died in a submersible going into the dark depths.

Experts say the government will likely need to complete its investigation into what caused the Titan to implode before it can write new rules for submersibles. Captain Jason D. Neubauer Coast Guard explain It may take another year or two for his conclusions to be made public.

The International Maritime Organization is the United Nations agency responsible for setting standards for maritime safety. Declared It is awaiting the results of such an investigation before considering global submersible regulation.

“People will accept change.” Salvatore Mercogliano“Everybody has safety in mind,” said the Campbell University maritime historian in North Carolina, referring to the new rules.

After the sinking of the Titanic, the Royal Mail Ship Titanic also issued a warning. Decision to suspend Its reliance on manned aircraft “pending further investigation” Causes of Implosion.

RMS Titanic president Ms. Saunders said new confidence in the safety of submersibles would lead the company to use them again, especially for the difficult task of retrieving the telegram that sent out Titanic’s distress signal.

Early versions of the recovery plan call A manned aircraft will work with three robots to search for the legendary device.

Ms Saunders said her company’s overall goal, using robots and submersibles, was to ensure the treasures from the legendary liner “are never lost at sea again”.

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