Guillermo Söhnlein and Stockton Rush launched OceanGate in 2009. After purchasing the submersible Antipodes, the business went on to construct the Cyclops 1 and Titan. OceanGate started taking paying visitors to the Titan to see the Titanic wreck in 2021. A passenger on an OceanGate voyage to the Titanic shipwreck cost $250,000 per person as of 2022.
Following the tragic implosion, OceanGate Expeditions, a subsidiary of OceanGate, stopped all commercial and exploration activities.
Stockton Childhood interests in space exploration and aviation led Rush to pursue his commercial pilot’s licence at the age of 18. His hobbies changed as he got older to include underwater exploring. Rush wanted to buy a submarine after making a fortune by investing his inheritance in software firms. Instead, he constructed one from blueprints in 2006 and gave it the moniker Suds.
Private Ocean Exploration
Through his research and expertise, Rush came to the conclusion that there was a gap in the market for private ocean exploration. Due to their use as ferries for commercial divers, submersibles have an unjustified reputation as deadly vehicles.
Rush stated in 2019 that the Passenger Vessel Safety Act of 1993 “needlessly prioritised passenger safety over commercial innovation”. He was building on earlier claims, such as those made on the OceanGate website in 2011 that “since 1974, there has not been a serious injury or fatality on an ABS certified passenger submersible” and in a speech to The Explorers Club in 2017 where he referred to submersibles as “the safest vehicles on the plane.” One fatality using a home-built submersible in 1990 served as evidence that uncertified vehicles were more risky.
Later, he paid for a marketing analysis that found there was a substantial market for ocean tourism that would fund the creation of new, deep-diving submersibles, opening up lucrative business opportunities including resource extraction and disaster relief. When Atlantis Adventures started offering submersible tours of the coral reefs close to Grand Cayman Island in 1986, the underwater tourist sector officially got underway.
Cylinder-shaped Carbon Fibre Hull
OceanGate placed the initial order for Cyclops 2’s titanium parts in December 2016 and awarded a contract to Spencer Composites in January 2017 for the development of the vessel’s cylinder-shaped carbon fibre hull.
The successor Cyclops 3 and Cyclops 4 submersibles, with a target maximum depth of 6,000 metres, were announced by OceanGate in 2019. According to John Vickers, NASA’s involvement was part of a Space Act Agreement that aimed to further “deep-space exploration goals” and “improve materials and manufacturing for American industry.”
OceanGate’s Titan submersible made its first trip to the Titanic in 2021.
All five people on the Titan perished in the June 2023 explosion, including CEO Stockton Rush. When word of Titan’s demise reached the corporation, the Everett office was permanently shut down, and the operations of its OceanGate Expeditions subsidiary were halted.