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“CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent David Pogue told NPR on Tuesday that he had been forced to sign a rather comprehensive waiver before he was allowed to travel aboard the Titan submersible last year.
The Titan, which is currently missing with five people aboard, is a custom-built submersible vehicle about the size of a minivan that was made to travel the 2.4 miles down to the undersea wreckage of the RMS Titanic — and Pogue was one of the few who was initially offered a chance to make the trip.
“When we boarded the surface vessel, we signed waivers that would curl your toes,” Pogue told NPR’s “All Things Considered,” adding, “It was basically a list of eight paragraphs describing ways that you could be permanently disabled or killed. There’s not much you can do if something goes wrong.”
At the time, Pogue described some of the paperwork in greater detail: “If all went well, I would be spending about 12 hours sealed inside on a dive to the Titanic. Not gonna lie; I was a little nervous, especially given the paperwork, which read, ‘This experimental vessel has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body, and could result in physical injury, emotional trauma, or death.’ Where do I sign?”
“It seems like this submersible has some elements of MacGyver jerry-riggedness. I mean, you’re putting construction pipes as ballast,” Pogue said to OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush as the journey began.
“I don’t know if I’d use that description of it. But, there are certain things that you want to be buttoned down,” Rush replied. “The pressure vessel is not MacGyver at all, because that’s where we worked with Boeing and NASA and the University of Washington. Everything else can fail, your thrusters can go, your lights can go. You’re still going to be safe.”
Pogue also got to experience firsthand something going wrong aboard the Titan. After his trip to the Titanic was shelved due to rough water, the CBS crew was offered the chance to dive to the Continental Shelf instead and see shark breeding grounds — but once the submersible was in the water, things did not go exactly as planned.
“Our dive in the OceanGate submersible had made it down only 37 feet when floats came off the platform. And that wasn’t supposed to happen. The mission was scrubbed,” he recalled. “I was crushed. My diving adventures were over.”
Others aboard the surface vessel did eventually make the dive to the Titanic wreckage — and returned safely to the surface.