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Thursday, October 14, 2021

This week, you can check out the high-tech sub that surveyed the Titanic

URI to host educational open house for cutting-edge submersible that surveyed the Titanic

By Hugh Markey

OceanGate’s Titan, a five-person submersible that can dive to
depths of 4,000 meters, is towed behind a research ship.
(Photo courtesy of David Concannon)

This week, the University of Rhode Island hosts an open house for Titan, the five-crewmember submersible that recently completed a six-week expedition to document the Titanic maritime heritage site. 

Titan is a unique carbon fiber and titanium crewed submersible designed to take five people to depths of 4,000 meters (13,123 feet).

The submersible will be on the Kingston Campus Quadrangle from Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 14-16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The open house is free and open to the public. Visitors will be required to wear masks and sign in to tour the submersible.

Professor Bridget Buxton arranged the viewing of the submersible in cooperation with the URI Research Foundation (URIRF) and OceanGate Inc., a company dedicated to providing state of the art submersibles that make deep ocean exploration possible for a wide variety of researchers and explorers. Buxton, chief archaeologist of the Titanic Survey Expedition, and her team supported OceanGate Expeditions during a series of 12,800-foot-deep dives to survey the wreck of the Titanic.

An image of the Titanic wreck taken by the submersible Titan.
(Photo courtesy of OceanGate Inc.)
Titan is specifically designed for deep sea exploration. It provides researchers the ability to explore ocean archaeology that is not easily reached by other means. The submersible provides greater impact for the scientific community because it makes direct observation of archaeological sites rather than viewing sites through a camera mounted on an autonomous underwater vehicle or remotely operated vehicle.

“We are proud to be working with Professor Buxton and the University of Rhode Island to share the importance of our innovative technology in supporting crucial deep sea archaeological research. The OceanGate Inc. submersible, Titan, is the first and only five-crewmember submersible to reach the Titanic,” said Stockton Rush, president, OceanGate Expeditions. “This summer marked the inaugural year for the Titanic Survey Expedition. The ongoing participation of experts like Professor Buxton is an integral part of this longitudinal study to document the wreck of the Titanic and its rate of decay.”

“OceanGate decided to take Titan on a tour to introduce people to the submersible,” said Buxton, an associate professor of Ancient History and Mediterranean archaeology. “It’s exciting to share our dive experiences and to show some of the footage and images we gathered during the expedition.”

The URIRF is supplying the funds and organizing logistics for bringing the vessel to the Quad. Michael Katz, executive director of URIRF, works on collaborations between industry and URI faculty.

“When I heard about this opportunity, I thought this would be great for our students, faculty, and the general public to look at a state of the art, advanced materials submersible,” said Katz. “It would be a chance to fire up some of our students to get involved in cutting edge innovative ocean technology research.”

Katz said part of the URIRF mission is to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship on campus. Hosting Titanin Kingston is a good example of the partnership between research and industry.

Buxton said that work carried out using this submersible as a research platform was part of a pioneering set of dives. “This is a revolutionary construction of carbon fiber and titanium. I’m an underwater archaeologist, and one of the things I’ve been very involved in the last 10 years is developing new technology to make underwater research, and in particular archaeology, more accessible and affordable to scientists and people in developing countries.”

Buxton received a grant from the URI Council for Research to help develop an affordable scanning sonar for oceanographic technology purposes. Her involvement with the OceanGate, Inc. Titan submersible is part of this research.

“The submersible can be operated behind any ship,” said Buxton. “In addition to deep ocean exploration, it can also be used in shallow and coastal areas.  This technology makes it much more affordable to do oceanographic research.”

Hugh Markey, a freelance writer, wrote this press release.