A friend of billionaire Hamish Harding, who had initially planned to join him on the ill-fated dive to the Titanic’s wreckage, decided to withdraw due to concerns about safety.
Chris Brown, 61, expressed reservations about the quality of technology and materials used by OceanGate, the company behind the missing submersible vessel, Titan.
According to The Sun, Brown had already paid the deposit for the voyage but changed his mind after observing what he believed to be corners being cut by OceanGate.
He raised concerns about the use of “old scaffolding poles” for ballast and the fact that the controls were based on “computer game-style controllers.”
Despite being one of the early participants to sign up, Brown deemed the risks too high and decided not to proceed with the dive.
Expressing his distress, Brown expressed concern for Hamish Harding, who is among the five individuals currently missing aboard the submersible called Titan.
The vessel lost communication during its dive to the Titanic wreckage, resting approximately 12,500 feet below the surface of the Atlantic. A frantic search and rescue operation is currently underway to locate the vessel before its 96-hour oxygen supply is depleted.
Brown and Harding had initially signed up for the trip, which was priced at £80,000 at the time, after enjoying some casual drinks on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island. They paid a 10 percent deposit while Titan was still under development. However, over the years, Brown claimed to have discovered that OceanGate had missed key milestones during depth-testing of the submersible.
The multimillionaire digital marketing tycoon found it disconcerting that the vessel was controlled using a modified PlayStation controller. He also expressed concern about the technical issues and delays encountered during the vessel’s development process.
Brown highlighted his discovery that OceanGate had utilized old scaffolding poles for the submersible’s ballast, emphasizing the significance of using appropriate materials for a commercial craft. Concerned about these factors, Brown eventually reached out to OceanGate via email and requested a refund.
Although worried for his friend, Brown believes that Harding is someone who remains calm in challenging situations. He expressed confidence in Harding’s ability to analyze and develop plans amidst the crisis.
OceanGate Expeditions has been conducting yearly voyages since 2021, documenting the decay of the Titanic and the surrounding underwater ecosystem. The Titan, the submersible involved in the current incident, was launched from an icebreaker previously operated by the Canadian Coast Guard and hired by OceanGate. The vessel had safely transported numerous people and the submersible to the North Atlantic wreck site for multiple dives.
The US Coast Guard reported that the submersible had approximately 40 hours of oxygen remaining, indicating a potential supply depletion by Thursday morning.
OceanGate has described the Titan as the largest deep-diving submersible with unmatched safety features, including ongoing assessment of hull integrity during every dive. Constructed with titanium and filament wound carbon fiber, the Titan weighs 20,000 pounds in the air but is ballasted to achieve neutral buoyancy upon reaching the seafloor.
Documents filed by the company in April state that the Titan is capable of diving to a depth of four kilometers with a comfortable safety margin. By that time, the submersible had already completed over 50 test dives, including to the equivalent depth of the Titanic, both in deep waters off the Bahamas and in a pressure chamber.
During the 2022 expedition, OceanGate reported an issue with the submersible’s battery on its initial dive, which required manual attachment to the lifting platform.