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On Titan Submersible Anniversary, World Rethinks Deep Sea Exploration

WorldOn Titan Submersible Anniversary, World Rethinks Deep Sea Exploration

When five men died on June 18, 2023, in the implosion of the Titan submersible during a dive to the Titanic’s resting place, the knowledge of Paul-Henri Nargeolet was lost too. It was Mr. Nargeolet’s 38th dive to the sunken liner. Known as Mr. Titanic, he helped retrieve thousands of artifacts that have been displayed in museums and at events around the world.

One year later, the company he worked for as director of underwater research is preparing a July expedition that will employ a pair of robots instead of people in submersibles looking for more treasures to bring up in the future.

Jessica Sanders, president of RMS Titanic which is organizing the expedition, said, “there’s an art to artifact recovery and a human element that technology can never replace — and shouldn’t.” She said Mr. Nargeolet had embodied that kind of expertise.

On the other hand, she said the results of the robotic expedition, “will speak for themselves.”

The plans of Mr. Nargeolet’s former employers show one of the more immediate effects of the Titan disaster: a prioritization of robots for plying the icy depths in place of humans piloting submersibles. The robots are seen as safer.

In parallel, however, players in the submersible world are pushing for greater international regulation to bar another disaster. They want to close the gap that OceanGate, Titan’s maker, exploited in eschewing the voluntary safety certifications the industry uses to reduce the substantial risks for deep divers.

The many fans of human-piloted submersibles want to make sure that Mr. Nargeolet’s legacy sets a path for a new generation of explorers. That could include future human pilots who recover more of Titanic’s remains and paraphernalia — rivets, fine china, bottles of champagne — that lie scattered over roughly three square miles of the North Atlantic seabed.


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