James Cameron blasts hunt for Titanic sub as ‘nightmarish charade’


Titanic director and submersible expert James Cameron said he predicted Titan’s implosion days before the debris from the missing submersible was found, calling the search a ‘prolonged nightmarish charade’.

Mr Cameron, who has visited the world’s most famous seawreck 30 times, said the tragedy this week has parallels with the the Titanic disaster, where the captain repeatedly ignored warnings about an incoming iceberg but carried on at top speed.

The Titanic Five were killed instantly when the submersible suffered a ‘catastrophic implosion’ just 1,600ft from the bow of the wrecked ocean liner, the US Coast Guard announced yesterday. A remote operated submarine from a Canadian ship found debris on the ocean floor. 

But search and rescue officials say the men likely died on Sunday – before military planes using sonar buoys detected what they thought could have been SOS ‘banging’ sounds in the water. The US Navy said they heard a sound consistent with an implosion when communications were lost around two hours after they dived. The Navy passed on that information to the Coast Guard, an insider said.

Mr Cameron told BBC News that the Coast Guard search ‘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’.

‘I knew that sub was sitting exactly underneath its last known depth and position. That’s exactly where they found it,’ he said.

According to court documents, safety concerns had previously been raised about the Titan submersible by a former employee of OceanGate. David Lochridge, OceanGate’s former director of marine operations, claimed wrongful dismissal after flagging worries about the company’s alleged ‘refusal to conduct critical, non-destructive testing of the experimental design’.

Mr Cameron said last night: ‘A number of the top players in the deep-submergence engineering community even wrote letters to the company saying that what they were doing was too experimental to carry passengers and that needed to be certified and so on.

‘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 It’s a very similar tragedy where warnings went unheeded — to take place at the same exact site with all the diving that’s going around all around the world. I think it’s just astonishing, it’s really quite surreal’.

Titanic director and submersible expert James Cameron said he predicted Titan's implosion before the debris from the missing submersible was found, calling the search a 'prolonged nightmarish charade'.

Titanic director and submersible expert James Cameron said he predicted Titan's implosion before the debris from the missing submersible was found, calling the search a 'prolonged nightmarish charade'.

Titanic director and submersible expert James Cameron said he predicted Titan’s implosion before the debris from the missing submersible was found, calling the search a ‘prolonged nightmarish charade’.

OceanGate Expeditions were allegedly repeatedly warned about safety concerns

OceanGate Expeditions were allegedly repeatedly warned about safety concerns

A satellite image shows ships taking part in the search and rescue operations associated with the missing Titan submersible near the wreck of the Titanic. Mr Cameron called it a 'charade'

A satellite image shows ships taking part in the search and rescue operations associated with the missing Titan submersible near the wreck of the Titanic. Mr Cameron called it a ‘charade’

Mr Cameron said: ‘I felt in my bones what had happened. I immediately got on the phone to some of my contacts in the deep submersible community. Within about an hour I had the following facts. They were on descent. They were at 3500 metres, heading for the bottom at 3800 metres.

‘For the sub’s electronics to fail and its communication system to fail, and its tracking transponder to fail simultaneously – sub’s gone

‘We now have another wreck that is based on unfortunately the same principles of not heeding warnings.’

The victims are OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, French Navy veteran Paul-Henri (PH) Nargeolet, British billionaire Hamish Harding, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, who was just 19. 

‘The implosion would have generated a significant, broadband sound that the sonar buoys would have picked up,’ explained Rear Admiral John Mauger of the US Coast Guard at a press conference. 

James Cameron’s pointed message comes after it was revealed that emerged that OceanGate boss Rush had been warned years before that his ‘experimental approach’ could lead to a catastrophe – and in another interview he spoke about ‘breaking rules’ to make the submarine.

It would have been an instant death for the men, some of whom had paid $250,000 each to see the famous shipwreck. 

In a gut-wrenching blow for their families, experts say there is little prospect of recovering any of their remains. 

‘This is an incredibly unforgiving environment down there. The debris is consistent of a catastrophic implosion of the vessel.. we’ll continue to work and search the area down there – but I don’t have an answer for prospects at this time,’ Paul Hankin, a deep sea expert involved in the search, said. 

Five people were onboard, including British billionaire adventurer Hamish Harding

Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman

Five people were onboard, including British billionaire adventurer Hamish Harding and Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, who was just 19

French Navy veteran PH Nargeolet is in the sub

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush is also onboard

French Navy veteran PH Nargeolet (left) is in the sub along with Stockton Rush (right), CEO of the OceanGate Expedition

In a heartbreaking tribute, Richard Garriott, president of the Explorers Club, of which Harding and Nargeolet were both members, said that the men had been drawn to explore ‘in the name of meaningful science for the betterment of mankind.’

‘Our hearts are broken. I am so sorry to have to share this tragic news,’ Garriott announced. He said the club was ‘grateful for all our members and the scientific and exploration community around the world who have mobilized personnel and resources to support the search and rescue’.

Garriott described Harding as a ‘dear friend’ to himself and the club. ‘He holds several world records and has continued to push dragons off maps both in person and through supporting expeditions and worthy causes,’ he wrote. 

‘We’re heartbroken for the families, friends and colleagues of those who were lost. Their memories will be a blessing and will continue to inspire us in the name of science and exploration,’ Garriott said.

In addition to the vessel’s landing frame and rear cover that were the first pieces of debris detected, the ROV submarine also found fragments of the pressure hull – the main body of the submersible. 

‘The debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber. Upon this determination we immediately notified the families. 

‘On behalf of the Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families. 

‘I hope this discovery provides some solace during this difficult time,’ Rear Admiral Mauger said.

In its own statement, OceanGate said this afternoon: ‘We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost.

‘These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans. 

‘Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.’

The company added: ‘This is an extremely sad time for our dedicated employees who are exhausted and grieving deeply over this loss. 

‘The entire OceanGate family is deeply grateful for the countless men and women from multiple organizations of the international community who expedited wide-ranging resources and have worked so very hard on this mission. 

‘We appreciate their commitment to finding these five explorers, and their days and nights of tireless work in support of our crew and their families.

‘This is a very sad time for the entire explorer community, and for each of the family members of those lost at sea. 

US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger announcing the men's deaths at a press conference in Boston. 'The debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber. Upon this determination we immediately notified the families. 'On behalf of the Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families.'

US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger announcing the men’s deaths at a press conference in Boston. ‘The debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber. Upon this determination we immediately notified the families. ‘On behalf of the Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families.’

In this U.S. Coast Guard handout, a Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina HC-130 Hercules airplane flies over the French research vessel, L'Atalante approximately 900 miles East of Cape Cod during the search for the 21-foot submersible, Titan, June 21, 2023 over the Atlantic Ocean

In this U.S. Coast Guard handout, a Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina HC-130 Hercules airplane flies over the French research vessel, L’Atalante approximately 900 miles East of Cape Cod during the search for the 21-foot submersible, Titan, June 21, 2023 over the Atlantic Ocean

Flotilla of hope: Ten ships from the US, Canada and France rushed to the Titanic wreck to try to assist in the search earlier this week

Flotilla of hope: Ten ships from the US, Canada and France rushed to the Titanic wreck to try to assist in the search earlier this week

‘We respectfully ask that the privacy of these families be respected during this most painful time.’ 

Earlier, David Mearns, who was friends with two of the men on board, said the ‘only saving grace’ for the men was how quickly their deaths would have occurred. 

The world had been praying for a ‘miracle’ after rescuers estimated the vital oxygen supply would end at 7.08am EST (12.08pm UK time, 9.09pm Sydney) on Thursday.

Officials said the field had been found by Odysseus 6k, a remote operated vehicle (ROV) deployed by the Canadian vessel, the Horizon Arctic, that can dive 20,000ft underwater. 

A glimmer of hope came yesterday when the Coast Guard confirmed consistent ‘banging’ noises had been detected by P-3 aircraft, but the search teams were unable to find the source of the sound, or confirm that they were the SOS signals the world had hoped for. 

The families of the five men on board the sub are yet to publicly react to news of the debris discovery.

Experts have for days warned of the possibility that the Titan had sprung a leak and imploded under the pressure, which is 400 times that experienced at sea level. 

‘They would be dead before they knew anything had even happened,’ L. David Marquet, a retired Navy nuclear submarine commander, said earlier this week

Earlier on Thursday, before the debris was found, Rear Admiral John Mauger, who coordinated the effort from Boston, said during an appearance on NBC’s Today show: ‘People’s will to live has to be accounted for.’ 

The submersible’s oxygen theoretically should have run out at 8am EST (1pm BST) Thursday, according to the 96 hours limit listed on OceanGate’s specs of the ship. 

The Titan submerged at 8am (1pm BST) and lost communications at 9.45am (2.45pm) but was not reported as missing to the US Coast Guard until 5.40pm (10.40pm). The sub was due to return to the Polar Prince ay 3pm EST (8pm BST) Sunday. 

Since Sunday night, there has been a frantic, international effort to find it and save the men on board.  

This is how Titan could have been saved by the French ship, if found in tact. Experts now say it likely imploded long before any of the help arrived

This is how Titan could have been saved by the French ship, if found in tact. Experts now say it likely imploded long before any of the help arrived

The Royal Air Force A400M Atlas aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth preparing for take-off

The Royal Air Force A400M Atlas aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth preparing for take-off 

Kathleen Cosnett, a cousin of UK businessman Hamish Harding, 58, who was on the sub, said the eight-hour delay before contacting the authorities was ‘far too long’.

She told the Telegraph‘It’s very frightening. It took so long for them to get going to rescue them, it’s far too long. I would have thought three hours would be the bare minimum.’  

Titan lost communication on Sunday while about 435 miles south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic off the coast of Canada. The last ‘ping’ of its homing device was heard on Sunday afternoon – directly above the world’s most famous wreck.

A Canadian Navy ship carrying medics specializing in treating health issues relating to deep-sea diving arrived on the scene this morning on the HMCS Glace Bay. They also brought a hyperbaric chamber – which can be used for decompressing divers after they return to the surface. 

Above the wreck was flotilla of at least ten ships, two robot subs and several aircraft scanning the Atlantic for any sign of Titan as sonar continued to hear a banging noise from the depths.  A Royal Navy submariner, as well as equipment from a British company, was also sent to assist in the search.

Oceanographer and water search expert Dr David Gallo said earlier on Thursday: ‘It’s going to be almost impossible. We need a miracle — but miracles do happen’. 

But former Royal Navy Officer, Chris Parry, said as midday approached: ‘I’m afraid time’s up – I don’t think there’s any prospect of getting those people out alive now’. 

Rescuers were insistent that they would continue to look for the men even after the 96 hour oxygen window expired. 

As recently as Wednesday afternoon, Coast Guard response coordinator Captain Jamie Frederick for First Coast Guard District said: ‘This is a search and rescue mission, 100 per cent.’

A door with signage removed is seen at Ocean Gate Headquarters at the Waterfront Building within the Port of Everett complex in Everett, Washington

A door with signage removed is seen at Ocean Gate Headquarters at the Waterfront Building within the Port of Everett complex in Everett, Washington



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