An implosion": how did the occupants of the submarine that disappeared near the Titanic die?
Steph Deschamps / June 24, 2023
The five passengers aboard the submersible lost since Sunday in the North Atlantic, near the wreck of the Titanic, died in the "catastrophic implosion" of this small scientific tourism submarine. What does this mean in practical terms? What could have happened?
The pressure exerted by water on the walls of an appliance is a phenomenon as well-known as it is feared. "Pressure can create a crack. The water then rushes back into the cabin. This is something that should never happen, but apparently it did this time. It's hard to imagine, but the implosion must have happened in a fraction of a second," explains Erik Hasselman, sales manager of U-Boat Worx. Did the passengers suffer? "No, they weren't aware of anything," he replies.
Each time the submarine descended ten meters, the pressure increased. Titan being 3,800 meters deep, the phenomenon was very significant. "The surrounding water pressure is 380 times atmospheric pressure. So there's a huge pressure difference between the inside of the submarine, where pressures are at atmospheric pressure to be able to survive, and the outside of the submarine. So the water is pushing extremely hard," explains Sandra Soares Frazao, a professor at Leuven Polytechnic.
Faced with such a difference in pressure, the passengers had no chance of survival. "Imagine you've got a ten-meter column of water over your head all the time. Suddenly, a column of water 380 times greater, i.e. 3,800 metres, is placed on you, and you are literally crushed by this weight," explains Sandra Soares Frazao.
An American specialist also commented on the drama. "It's probably just luck. The glass exploded inwards in a thousandth of a second. It's a sweeter ending than staying four days in a cold, dark, confined space," confided Will Kohnen, chairman of the U.S. Underwater Vehicle Committee of the Marine Technology Society.
Experts are now calling for stricter standards for this type of submersible. However, testing at these depths remains highly complicated.