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James Cameron weighs in on the Titan sub tragedy’s link to the Titanic disaster

The director’s legacy as a deep-sea explorer and Titanic expert has made him a key voice in the wake of the incident

James Cameron at the 21st Annual VES Awards Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Hollywood’s most famous deep-sea explorer, James Cameron, has joined the chorus of people weighing in on the Titan submersible tragedy. The Titanic director, who has also visited the wreckage of the famous ship 33 times and has directed and produced numerous deep sea documentaries, spoke to ABC News about the event and the concerns he and others in the undersea exploration community had, as well as some of the rules and guidelines that were not properly observed in the creation of the Titan vehicle.

Cameron, whose most recent release was Avatar: The Way of Water, expressed frustration during his interview over the fact that this submersible launched with passengers at all. According to the filmmaker, submarines tend to be remarkably safe, because of the strict guidelines and standards put in place over their design. The famously meticulous director designed his own sub, which he used to explore the Mariana Trench several years ago, making this a process he has intimate knowledge of.

Cameron noted, however, that the Titan sub is an exception to the safety of dives because it was not held up to these guidelines, meaning it was not considered fit by the general deep sea exploration community. He also mentioned that members of that community reached out to OceanGate, the company behind the sub, to warn it about these shortcomings. (The New York Times also notes this in its reporting on OceanGate’s safety issues.)

“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 it needed to be certified, and so on,” Cameron said.

The Titan submersible, which launched Saturday, June 17, had been missing since Sunday. After a multiday international search effort, debris from the vessel, including its tail cone, was found near the site of the Titanic’s wreckage on Thursday morning. The Titan likely experienced a “catastrophic implosion,” U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger said Thursday, and it’s possible the implosion actually happened several days earlier. The sub had five passengers onboard; none of them are thought to have survived the incident.

Cameron also said during his interview that the entire situation wasn’t entirely dissimilar to the tragic sinking of the original Titanic.

“I’m struck by the similarity of the Titanic disaster itself,” Cameron said. “Where the captain was repeatedly warned about ice ahead of his ship and yet he steamed at full speed into an ice field on a moonless night, and many people died as a result. And with a very similar tragedy where warnings went unheeded, to take place at the same exact site, with all the diving that’s going on all around the world, I think it’s just astonishing. It’s really quite surreal.”

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