Titan submersible implosion: Underwater experts speak out on deep-sea conditions and pressure

In the aftermath of the implosion of a submersible craft that was taking people to view the wreck of famed ocean liner Titanic, experts at an underwater welding school in the Phoenix area that train students to work under pressure describe the extreme danger that comes with traveling thousands of feet below the ocean surface of the ocean.

Prior to the developments of June 22, the submersible, named Titan, was reported missing for days. The craft was taking five people to visit the wreckage of famed oceanliner RMS Titanic was it lost contact. The submersible was reported overdue Sunday afternoon about 435 miles (700 kilometers) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland, as it was on its way to where the iconic ocean liner sank more than a century ago.

Debris found during the search for the vessel "is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel," said Rear Adm. John Mauger of the First Coast Guard District.

Experts describe extreme conditions underwater

At Commercial Divers International in Goodyear, underwater welding students use a hyperbaric chamber, to feel what it’s like under the pressure of the ocean. Instructors say the chamber is about the same size as the Titan submersible.

"Whereas you have one atmosphere of pressure, they would’ve been 389 times that pressure for the depth they were at," said Britt Coates.

Coates said a ‘catastrophic implosion’ means the Titan submersible may have had a crack or leak, disturbing the pressure.

"Just a minor fracture, it would just cause a compromise, and crumple like a soda can," said Coates.

Another instructor at this school, Jace Beales, previously served in the U.S. Navy as a diver, and worked on underwater rescue missions.

"When I was in the Navy, undersea rescue, we could only go to 2,000 feet," Beales recounted. "They were at 12,500 feet. The Navy can only rescue up to 2,000 feet."

Recovery efforts, according to the instructors, will likely be carried out by robotic ocean vehicles. There is very little knowledge and experience in what can survive the pressure of being on the ocean floor.

"That being their demise would be a lot more humane," said Coates. "They would’ve died within seconds, as opposed to suffocating over six days."