Science & Tech

Design for billionaire's new Titanic sub has everyone thinking the same thing

Design for billionaire's new Titanic sub has everyone thinking the same thing
Billionaire plans to return to the Titanic
Fox - LA / VideoElephant

The design for a submersible that will carry tech billionaire Larry Connor down to the Titanic has been met with concern and many, many questions.

Connor announced his plans to dive down to the iconic shipwreck almost exactly a year on from the OceanGate disaster which left five people dead.

The real estate mogul admitted that he contacted Patrick Lahey, the co-founder of specialist company Triton Submarines, shortly after the tragedy, in which the 6.7-metre-long Titan vessel suffered a “catastrophic implosion”.

He urged Lahey to build a new submarine that could reach the 12,500-foot (3.8 kilometre)-depths of the legendary passenger liner, both safely and repeatedly.

The two-person custom vessel, which is set to be christened “The Explorer — Return to the Titanic,” is still in the design phase, and is currently estimated to cost a staggering $20 million (around £15.6 million).

Lahey has been working on the design for the acrylic-hulled sub for “over a decade”, according to Connor, who told the Wall Street Journal: “You couldn’t have built this five years ago.”

Triton Submarines describes the groundbreaking new vessel as "the perfect submersible for repeated trips to the deep ocean"(Triton Submarines)

Describing the vessel, which is currently listed as the “Abyssal Explorer”, on its website, Triton Submarines states: “Once subsurface, the submersible’s hydrodynamic shape — with wings folded — speeds the descent to 13,000 feet.

“The journey takes less than two hours, significantly faster than previously possible.”

It will be the first acrylic-hulled sub to reach such depths, and the first to benefit from a 320-degree view of the deep-sea surroundings, Connor told the New York Times.

Understandably, the entrepreneur has been quick to distance this Triton submersible from its doomed Titan predecessor.

Following the disaster, which occurred on 18 June, 2023, underwater explorers shared their concerns about the OceanGate vessels’ cost-saving design choices

The company’s experimental Titan design was not certified, which its founder, Stockton Rush, who died in the terrible accident, had touted as proof of its cutting-edge innovation.

And yet, experts had expressed concern about the vessel’s safety, as the Oscar-winning Titanic film director James Cameron later explained.

Speaking to ABC News days after the catastrophe, Cameron, who himself has designed submersibles that can dive three times deeper than the depths of the Titanic, branded the carbon fibre construction of the Titan "fundamentally flawed."

"Many people in the community were very concerned about this sub,” he revealed.

"A number of the top players in the deep submergence engineering community even wrote letters to the company, saying that what they were doing was too experimental to carry passengers and that it needed to be certified and so on."

'There is no excuse for what happened here': Director James Cameron on Titanic sub

News of Connor and Lahey’s planned mission, which is currently slated for summer 2026, has prompted social media commentators to ask what Cameron would make of the new Triton sub’s design.

“James Cameron is one of the investors in the company actually building the submarine,” one Reddit user replied. “And this submarine is actually certified for going that deep.”

Another pointed out: “Well, this one appears to be a sphere - so that’s the first and most obvious improvement over the Oceangate,” while another added: “I believe the sub is also made by a company that specializes in making submarines, so that's also an improvement.”

Meanwhile, others were less positive in their assessments, with one writing: “Looks like a part for my vacuum I took off and can’t figure out where it goes now.”

“Looks like it makes banger coffee,” joked another. “Or dices onions efficiently,” said a third.

"Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler," quipped a fourth.

However, Connor has been quick to point out that, until the Titan tragedy no one had ever died while piloting or riding a submersible, despite explorers making many thousands of dives over the course of a century.

“I’m concerned that people associate diving subs, especially new or different subs, with danger or tragedy,” he told the New York Times, stressing that he wanted to reinstate the safety of well-made submersibles.

He insisted that his sub would be rigorously tested by respected organisations and take two and a half to three years to build.

Underlying his own reputation for never taking on “unacceptable risk,” he added: “If we can’t do it, what we call ‘s and s’ — safely and successfully — we’re just not going to do it.

“We’re not thrill-seekers," he said.

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