Titanic submersible: Underwater cinematographer says excursion was 'disaster waiting to happen'

ByLyanne Melendez KGO logo
Friday, June 23, 2023
Titan sub tragedy was 'disaster waiting to happen': Expert
Experienced underwater cinematographer Al Giddings who also worked on the film "Titanic," says the sub excursion was a "disaster waiting to happen."

SAN FRANCISCO -- What's it like to be in a submersible? One person who knows is underwater cinematographer and producer, Al Giddings.

"I was very apprehensive from day one," expressed Giddings when speaking about the submersible that imploded on its way to see the Titanic wreckage. Giddings' experience as an underwater cinematographer is vast. His knowledge of ocean submersibles is extremely valuable at a time when the rest of us know so little about how they operate underwater.

An implosion, he explains is, of course, the reverse of an explosion.

"This, as oppose to this. An implosion is instant under those pressures. It was very forgiving considering the other possibilities of how they might have died. It was sort of a blessing," he explained.

VIDEO: Missing Titanic sub experiences 'catastrophic implosion.' Here's what may have happened

Coast Guard officials said the tail cone and other pieces of the missing submersible Titan were found about 1,600 feet from the wreckage of the Titanic on the sea floor.

Giddings has gone down 12,460 feet to the depths of the Titanic wreckage 17 times on the MIR submersible operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences. He spent up to 20 hours at a time shooting documentaries on the MIR and in 1997 the movie "Titanic" with director James Cameron.

The MIR was made of titanium, the walls four and a half inches thick as opposed to the Titan which had a carbon fiber construction.

"There isn't much comparison. One is much more capable of those depths," insisted Giddings.

He was surprised that well-known French veteran diver Paul Nargeolet was in the doomed submersible. Nargeolet who, along with Robert Ballard, discovered the Titanic wreckage in 1985.

"He would have known the shortcomings of that design," said Giddings.

VIDEO: James Cameron reacts sub implosion: 'I'm struck by the similarity of the Titanic disaster itself'

"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," 'Titanic' director James Cameron tells ABC News.

Giddings also points out they likely could not have survived the freezing temperatures inside for a long period of time, which he himself experienced.

"At the end of 21 hours, it would be in the 30s and we would have layered on all these clothes because of the duration of the dive," he revealed.

After a number of underwater excursions, Giddings said the submersible was likely stressed.

"It would show signs of fatigue and time through this compression and decompression and compression and decompression process," he added.

"I think those people in the know, unfortunately, would say it was a disaster waiting to happen."

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