Debris expected to be crucial part of investigations into 'catastrophic implosion'
A blue ship cut through a blanket of grey fog on Wednesday morning, navigating between the steep cliffs at the entrance to St. John's harbour with precious cargo on board.
The Horizon Arctic returned to port carrying the shattered pieces of the Titan submersible, 10 days after it went missing off the coast of Newfoundland with five souls on board.
The ship was carrying the Odysseus, a remote-operated vehicle that brought the rescue mission to an end when it spotted debris on the ocean floor a few hundred metres away from the hull of the Titanic.
"Our team has successfully completed off-shore operations, but is still on mission and will be in the process of demobilization from the Horizon Arctic this morning," said a spokesperson from Pelagic Research, the new York company that owns the Odysseus ROV.
"They have been working around the clock now for 10 days, through the physical and mental challenges of this operation, and are anxious to finish the mission and return to their loved ones."
Minutes after the ship docked on the south side the the harbour, teams of investigators boarded the Horizon Arctic to begin their work.
By mid-morning, a crane had begun offloading parts of the submersible at the Canadian Coast Guard terminal. There was a semi-circular piece that appeared to be the nose of the Titan, and then a piece of the side panel with a covering over the OceanGate logo.
Looks like nose of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Titan?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Titan</a> being lifted off Horizon Arctic <a href="https://t.co/OZuClp7JAt">pic.twitter.com/OZuClp7JAt</a>
All five people on board are believed to have been killed by the implosion. That includes OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush, whose company built the Titan with an experimental design using carbon fibre and titanium.
In previous interviews, Rush acknowledged the materials were not standard for deep-sea submersibles.
Pieces of Titan submersible taken off ship in N.L.
Crews were seen in St. John's early Wednesday unloading pieces of the Titan submersible, which was destroyed in a deadly deep-sea implosion near the wreckage of the Titanic.
"I'd like to be remembered as an innovator," Rush told vlogger Alan Estrada in 2021. "I've broken some rules to make this. I think I've broken them with logic and good engineering behind me. The carbon fibre and titanium, there's a rule you don't do that. Well, I did."
The remnants of the submersible — those pieces of carbon fibre and titanium — will now be turned over to investigators to figure out what went wrong. Transportation safety boards from the United States and Canada, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and RCMP are now probing the incident.
They may try to piece the vessel back together, according to a marine investigations expert who spoke with CBC News earlier this week.
"Just like an airline crash, they may try to reassemble the sub to put the parts together like a puzzle to determine where the failure point was," said Tom Maddox, founder and CEO of Underwater Forensic Investigations. "In the case of a massive implosion that's not going to be an easy task because much of the craft would have disintegrated."
There are no timelines for any of the investigations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Cooke is a multiplatform journalist with CBC News in St. John's. His work often takes a deeper look at social issues and the human impact of public policy. Originally from rural Newfoundland, he attended the University of Prince Edward Island and worked for newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada before joining CBC in 2016. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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