“Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on many waters, they have seen the works of Yahweh, and His wondrous deeds in the deep… They went down to the depths; their soul melted away in the calamity. They staggered and swayed like a drunken man, and all their wisdom was swallowed up.”
This week, the world was captivated by a 21-foot long submarine called Titan, owned by a company called OceanGate, which took five men to the bottom of the ocean to tour the famed sunken ship Titanic. The wreckage is located in an extremely remote part of the North Atlantic, about 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland and 12,800 feet below the surface, or about 2.5 miles underwater.
On Sunday morning, the Titan launched from its main vessel, the Polar Prince, into the cold waters of the North Atlantic. Descending at a rate of 1 mph, it takes 2.5 hours to reach the ocean floor. The Polar Prince lost contact with the sub about 1 hour and 45 minutes into its descent, and they never regained contact. Titan had enough oxygen to last until Thursday morning, when the five passengers were proclaimed dead. God, be with their families.
On board were pilot and OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush (61); French underwater wreck expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet (73), who is said to have visited the Titanic wreckage dozens of times; British entrepreneur Hamish Harding (58); and father-son Pakistanis Shahzada and Sulaiman Dawood (48 and 19). The combined net worth of these five men was estimated to be near $3 billion.
The Titanic had wealthy and powerful people aboard when it fell into the sea as well. There are other similarities between the Titanic and the Titan—some might even call them eerie coincidences. I’ll share a few in a moment.
I truly hope someone on the small Titan vessel knew Jesus and was able to share the gospel with the rest of the men before God’s ocean took their lives. The destruction of either ship, the Titanic and then the Titan, is a lesson in pride—pride in its construction and pride in its operation.
Pride Goes Before Destruction
To tour the wreckage of the Titanic doesn’t come cheap or easy. It takes a very specialized vessel to withstand the massive water pressure of that depth. More people have been to the International Space Station (over 200) than there are people who have seen the ruined Titanic (under 200).
Even the average Navy sub cannot descend that far beneath the surface. The Los Angeles class of nuclear test submarines have a maximum depth of 3,000 feet (1,000m), though a safe operating depth is more like 1,500 ft. If a nuclear sub were to descend just a few thousand feet, the pressure would crush the hull and the vessel would implode.
The US DSRV (Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle) was built to rescue survivors of sunken submarines, and even that sub has a maximum depth of 10,000 feet. In fact, there are only 10 subs in the world that could reach Titanic depths. Only one of the ten is not certified, and that is (or was) the Titan.
In fact, to board the Titan, you had to sign a waver by which you acknowledged that this submersible “has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body and could result in physical injury, disability, emotional trauma, or death.”
Because the Polar Prince lost contact with the Titan before it reached the bottom, it is believed that some weakness in the vessel caused it to implode. Numerous videos were going around this week of the unconventional processes owner Stockton Rush boasted in taking when he built his submarine. One of the more amusing “innovations” was that the sub was piloted by a Logitech game controller you could buy at Walmart for $30.
In one interview, Rush sat inside his sub and said, “You know, I’ve broken some rules to make this. I think I’ve broken them with logic and good engineering behind me. The carbon fiber and titanium—there’s a rule that you don’t do that. Well, I did.”
Yes, there’s a very good reason you don’t combine carbon fiber and titanium to build a submarine. It’s called physics. Titanium is otherwise quite resistant to corrosion in sea water. However, when titanium is combined with carbon fiber composites, as Titan was, it actually speeds up corrosion, a process called galvanic corrosion.
Though Titan had made several successful dives to the Titanic, this may have been the one where unseen corrosion finally did the vessel in, and the passengers died instantly before they knew what hit them. An implosion of a sub that size would happen in less than a second. A remotely-operated vehicle discovered a debris field near the wreckage of the Titanic, confirmed to be the remains of Titan.
There is a Way That Seems Right, but its End is Death
In addition to a poorly made submersible, there were questions about how Rush operated his business. Rather than looking for the most experienced professionals his millions could buy, he went with inexperienced youngsters, whose chief qualification was that they were not seasoned white men. In a 2020 interview with Teledyne Marine, an undersea tech company, Rush said the following:
“When I started business, one of the things you’ll find is that there are other sub operators out there, but they typically have gentlemen who are ex-military submariners, and you’ll see a bunch of 50 year old white guys. I wanted our team to be younger, to be inspirational, and I’m not going to inspire a 16 year-old to go pursue marine technology. But a 25 year-old who’s a sub pilot or a platform operator or one of our techs can be inspirational.
“So we’ve really tried to get very intelligent, motivated younger individuals involved because we’re doing things that are completely new. We’re taking approaches that are used largely in the aerospace industry as related to safety and some of the preponderance of checklists, things we do for risk assessments, things like that, that are more aviation related than ocean related. We can train people to do that. We can train someone to pilot the sub. We use a game controller so anybody can drive the sub.”
So Rush didn’t want a 50 year-old white man with thousands of hours of training and experience navigating a high-risk environment and life-threatening situations. He’d rather put people’s lives in the hands of an inexperienced nobody, who spent thousands of hours playing video games in their parents’ basement. He thought that person could be more inspirational than the seasoned submariner, simply because that submariner was a white man, who succeeded with patience and hard work
The people aboard the Titan were killed by good old fashioned racism and sexism—or what today has been termed “wokeness,” the cultural Marxist ideology that teaches white men are oppressors and grants social and moral credibility to self-entitled, morally bankrupt narcissists.
OceanGate is a parable of our times—a society of spoiled brats claiming they deserve whatever they want without earning it, defying authority and reason to get it, to everyone’s destruction. Rush tried to defy physics and logic, and he lost. His passengers went along with it, and they died.
“I’d like to be remembered as an innovator,” Rush said. But he won’t be. He will be remembered as a fool, whose hubris took the lives of the people with him.
Those Who Do Not Learn From History
In an interview with CBS, Rush said of his submarine, “By the time we’re done testing it, I believe it’s pretty much invulnerable.”
“And that’s pretty much what they said about the Titanic,” the interview pointed out.
“That’s right,” Rush said. “And I will go on all the first dives to put my money where my mouth is.”
One hundred and eleven years earlier, in that exact same spot in the Atlantic Ocean, Thomas Andrews, who designed the Titanic, went down with his ship, which he had also claimed to be unsinkable. “God Himself could not sink this ship,” he was reported as saying.
The captain of the Titanic was warned of danger, yet he went full steam ahead of conventional wisdom into an ice field. Rush was also warned of danger, with professionals inside and outside of his company saying the craft needed more testing and could not withstand the extreme depths to which it would dive. For example, the viewport passengers would look out of was certified to work in depths no more than 1,300m (about 4,000 ft). Rush ignored the warnings, even firing staff and threatening another with a lawsuit, and he dove anyway.
But these are not the only similarities to the Titanic. It turns out that Stockton’s wife, Wendy, is the great-great-granddaughter of Isidor and Ida Straus, who died when the Titanic sank. Isidor was then owner of Macy’s department store. Since Isidor was a former congressman, he had been offered the chance to escape aboard a lifeboat along with his wife. But he would not leave until all the women and children had escaped first, and Ida refused to go without her husband of 40 years. They both died together.
As I mentioned, just like Titan, the Titanic had its share of the wealthy and elite. Some very rich and powerful people lost their lives when the ship sank on April 14, 1912, including John Jacob Aster, owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. According to the New York Times, Astor “put up and owned more hotels and skyscrapers than any other New Yorker.” He was estimated to be worth $200 million then, or $6.2 billion today—more than twice as much as the five men aboard the Titan combined.
OceanGate was charging as much as $250,000 per person to tour the Titanic. As of this article, OceanGate’s website says that they had 18 dives planned. I’m sure all of that has been cancelled by now, and OceanGate will, if you’ll pardon the expression, go under.
If all of these men and corporations could not be saved by their wealth and power, neither will you nor I be saved by our own strength. Only Jesus Christ saves, He who died on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for sin and rose from the depths of the grave. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
As Psalm 107:28 and 43 say, “Then they cried to Yahweh in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses… Who is wise? Let him keep these things, and carefully consider the loving-kindness of Yahweh.”
Even in the Depths You Are There
While reading about everything surrounding the Titan tragedy, I came across this interesting story from Michael Guillen, the first reporter to ever see the wreckage of the Titanic over 20 years ago. Guillen was working as a science editor for ABC News Television and was invited to film footage of the legendary sunken ocean-liner.
Guillen boarded a three-person submersible along with British comedy writer Brian Cooke and an experienced Russian pilot named Viktor. After their 2.5 hour descent, the light of the small sub soon fell upon the rivets of the hull of the Titanic. Guillen was filled with wonder and even an overwhelming sense of sadness, to think about 1,500 people who lost their lives in the tragedy.
The part of the Titanic they came upon was the stern (the Titanic broke in half when it sank, and the two halves are more than a half-mile apart from one another on the ocean floor). In addition to the ship and its fragments, Guillen saw women’s shoes, leather suitcases, and boxes of champagne, then they saw one of three giant, 21-ton propellers.
Suddenly, the sub was caught in a fast current and forced against the propeller. Fragments of rusty, red debris filled the portal as Cooke and Guillen exchanged an anxious look. Viktor was on the com speaking Russian in a grim tone. The vessel was stuck, perhaps between the propeller blades. They listened to the engines of the sub strain as Viktor tried to get the vessel loose.
Twenty minutes passed. Then thirty. Guillen started to think about the few hours of oxygen they had left before they would slowly suffocate. He began to think about his wife Laurel and how he would never see her again.
But suddenly Guillen felt a sense of peace, and he realized the sub was no longer straining but floating. Viktor flashed a big smile and announced, “No problem!” It turned out Viktor was a former MiG pilot, experienced in handling crises.
When Guillen was reunited with his wife, they opened their Bible to Psalm 139, and there they read, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me” (v.9-10).
“As long as I live, never again will that psalm be mere words,” Guillen said. Indeed, the words in the Bible are assured truth that will comfort everyone who believes in Jesus.