Titanic director James Cameron: ‘Oceangate warned’

  • By Rebecca Morrell
  • Science Editor, BBC News

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WATCH: James Cameron tells BBC he “felt it in his bones” what happened to the deputy

Hollywood director James Cameron, who directed the 1997 film Titanic, has told the BBC that he feels the loss of the Titanic submarine “in my bones”.

Cameron completed 33 dives aboard the Titanic.

He said he was on board the ship on Sunday when the mate went missing and didn’t hear about it until Monday.

When he learned that the companion had simultaneously lost both its navigation and communications, he immediately suspected a disaster.

“I felt in my bones what had happened. For the companion’s electronics to fail and its communications system to fail and its tracking transponder to fail simultaneously – the companion was gone.”

The director continued: “I immediately telephoned some of my contacts in the deep submersible community. Within about an hour I had the following facts. They were on the descent. They went down to 3800 meters at an altitude of 3500 meters.

“Their comms were lost, navigation was lost — I immediately said, you can’t lose comms and navigation together without a serious catastrophic event or a high-energy catastrophic event. And the first thing that came to mind was an explosion.”

On Thursday, a US Navy official told the BBC’s partner CBS News that the Navy detected an “acoustic anomaly consistent with an explosion” shortly after Titan lost contact with the surface.

The official said the information was forwarded to the US Coast Guard.

Cameron told BBC News last week “it felt like a long and dreamy carrot, where people were talking about thunder and oxygen and other things”.

“I know the sub was sitting right underneath its last known depth and position. That’s where they found it,” he continued.

Searchers “found it within an hour, probably a few minutes,” after the underwater vehicle was remotely deployed on Thursday, he said.

Cameron suggested that there was a “terrible irony” in the loss of the Titan and its crew, comparing it to the loss of the Titanic in 1912.

“Now we have another debacle based on the same principles of not heeding the warnings,” he said. “Oceangate alerted.”

He said the company had people working in-house, but did not say why.

Some in the deep-diving community, not including himself directly, have written to Oceangate saying they believe “you’re on a path to disaster,” he said.

A March 2018 letter from the Marine Technology Society (MTS) to OceanGate and obtained by The New York Times stated that “the current ‘experimental’ approach adopted by OceanGate…could have negative consequences (ranging from minor to catastrophic)”.

Separately, US court documents show a former employee of OceanGate warned of potential security problems on the ship as early as 2018.

The company’s director of marine operations, David Lockridge, raised concerns in the inspection report, the documents show.

A spokesman for OceanGate declined to comment on the safety issues raised by Mr Lockridge and MTS.

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