James Cameron on Sub: 'I Wish I'd Spoken Up'

Director details flaws he saw in Titan's construction, slams OceanGate's lack of third-party certification
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2023 7:45 AM CDT
James Cameron on Sub: 'I Wish I'd Spoken Up'
James Cameron is seen during the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Jan. 13 at the Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena, California.   (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

James Cameron says he knew "in my bones" that the Titan submersible was gone as soon as he heard it was missing. Now, the Titanic director and deep-sea explorer is expressing regret at not speaking up more on his concerns about the OceanGate vessel, which he says "shouldn't have been doing what it was doing," per Reuters. "I wish I had been more vocal about that, but I think I was unaware that they weren't certified, because I wasn't really studying it," he tells the news agency.

Cameron adds that OceanGate co-founder Stockton Rush, one of the five passengers who died in the underwater implosion, had asked him if he wanted to go out on a dive to the Titanic wreck this season. "I wasn't interested," says the filmmaker, who has already taken part in more than 30 expeditions to the shipwreck. Cameron says he'd long heard of others' concerns that the submersible wasn't certified by a third party—a concern he shared, telling CNN it was "unconscionable" to reject such a "rigorous process" for a vessel intended to carry passengers.

Cameron, who has designed and piloted his own submersible, details the flaws he saw with Titan to the New York Times, including the fact that it was made with not steel or titanium, but carbon-fiber composites, which have "no strength in compression." "I wish I'd spoken up," he reiterates to Reuters. "But I assumed somebody was smarter than me." He also tells ABC News he was "struck by the similarity" of the Titan tragedy to that of the Titanic itself, as the captain of the latter vessel ignored red flags about ice in the waters ahead. "Warnings went unheeded to take place at the same exact site," he says.

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One person who's pushing back at the criticisms from Cameron and others: Guillermo Sohnlein, OceanGate's other co-founder. "Any expert who weighs in on this, including Mr Cameron, will also admit that they were not there for the design of the sub, for the engineering of the sub, for the building of the sub, and certainly not for the rigorous test program the sub went through," Sohnlein tells the BBC's Radio 4. Sohnlein, who left the company a decade ago but still holds a minority stake, calls what happened a "tragic loss for the ocean exploration community," but he says that such an implosion in deep waters is always a risk and can happen "at any given moment." In the end, none of the Monday morning quarterbacking can bring back the five who died. "Now there's one wreck lying next to the other wreck, for the same damn reason," Cameron tells Reuters. (Read more James Cameron stories.)

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