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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

US Navy Says It Detected Implosion Sunday, Relayed Information To Search Efforts; Coast Guard: Titanic-Bound Sub Suffered "Catastrophic Implosion", Killing All 5 Aboard; Passenger On The Titan In 2022 Describes His Experience. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 22, 2023 - 20:00   ET


HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: So, it does seem to me that Trump is being helped by this larger field. If the race does in fact get closer than it is right now, I think that DeSantis would very much like those other Republicans to get out of the race.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Yes. Well, we'll see what happens. All right, thanks very much, Harry Enten.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: Thanks very much to all of you for being with us. AC 360 starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening from St. John's, Newfoundland.

A sad and somber evening here. This is where five explorers and would- be explorers were set off on Friday out into the open ocean traveling some 460 miles from here toward the wreck of the RMS Titanic.

Then on Sunday morning, they were sealed inside the submersible, Titan, and lowered into the ocean for their descent to the seabed some 13,000 feet below, about two miles.

Less than two hours later, communication as you know was lost with the submersible and we've just learned it was about that time a senior Navy official tells CNN that a navy network of underwater sensors picked up sounds consistent they said with an implosion, but that it was determined to be "not definitive."

This afternoon, we learned the worst.


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN MAUGER, FIRST COAST GUARD DISTRICT: This morning, an ROV or remote operated vehicle from the vessel, Horizon Arctic discovered the tail cone of the Titan submersible approximately 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic on the sea floor.

The ROV subsequently found additional debris. In consultation with experts from within the unified command, the debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber.


COOPER: And that, the Rear Admiral said caused Titan to implode.

The remote operating vehicle which located the Titan had sonar on it, arms in it, and a camera. It first spotted Titan's nose cone in that larger debris field that he talked about that was some 1,600 feet away from the bow of the Titanic and then there was a second smaller debris field, where they found the aft of the hull, the pressure hull.

When asked whether the vessel had perhaps struck wreckage from the Titanic or been damaged somehow on the ocean floor, the Rear Admiral said the area around that large debris field was smooth.

When asked about the precise timing of the catastrophic implosion, as they're calling it, he said it was too early to tell.

Now aboard the vessel, two deep sea pioneers, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a veteran of dozens of dives to the Titanic, he was 77, widely regarded as an expert on the Titanic; also, Stockton Rush, 61, the founder of OceanGate Expeditions, and creator of the Titan; also lost aboard, 58- year-old pilot and aerial adventurer, Hamish Harding, and British- Pakistani billionaire Shahzada Dawood who was 48 years old and his 19- year-old son, Suleman.

Now there is no good news in what happened at all, but perhaps some comfort for the loved ones of those now lost that according to former longtime Navy physician, Dr. Aileen Marty who we will speak with shortly, the implosion that took their lives would have happened many times faster than the human brain could have even detected it, let alone experienced fear.

In just a moment, we'll talk to Titanic director, James Cameron who himself has made 33 dives to the Titanic. He joins us.

But first, CNN's Miguel Marquez with more on what we now know.

Miguel, you have been covering this really from the beginning. It is the worst possible findings.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was so much hope, there was slivers of it, but people really clung to it here in St. John's and across this community and around the world. It was amazing to see how this story struck such a nerve.

But sadly, I think most people that I was talking to didn't believe that there could be that miracle and was afraid that there was a catastrophic event like this, and today it was confirmed.

COOPER: And then the news information that we just got from that Defense official was that some sort of sonar equipment did hear some sort of a sound that could be the implosion around the time. They began listening as soon as they learned that there was a problem.

MARQUEZ: Well, presumably this technology picks it up automatically. It is meant to be a defense system. It's very unclear what exactly that defense system is, but it is amazing that they picked it up.

So an hour and 45 into a nine-hour dive or so, they were very deep by that time. The Defense Department picks up this implosion --

COOPER: They were closer to the Titanic than they were to the surface.

MARQUEZ: Much closer, so it implodes at that point, bursts into pieces essentially and the way the Coast Guard described it today, it showered down basically where they were headed, to the Titanic itself, narrowly missing the Titanic, the hull of the Titanic.


COOPER: The Rear Admiral talked about this a little bit. They are already starting in the next 24 hours to send away -- you know, there were nine ships on site. They are starting to send those away, medical personnel as well, but they're going to continue for now with the ROV under the water searching the debris field.

MARQUEZ: It sounds like very much, they want to map the debris field. They want to understand sort of where all the pieces are. They may try to bring some pieces up, I think they would really -- as we know, this was a controversial sub that it was what some called it experimental.

It had gone down to the Titanic many times successfully, but they want to know what went wrong and what it was that caused that catastrophic failure in this sub.

It is amazing to think in 1912, the Titanic sank, and now in 2023, you have more peoples' lives being claimed right at the site of the Titanic. They'd really like to understand that. They would also like to recover remains, if possible, but given the implosion, given the violent nature of this event, that may be impossible.

COOPER: Yes, it is very unlikely. We've talked to experts, and we'll talk to Dr. Marty later on. It's unlikely that there would be any bodies or even bones at this point, but we'll learn more about that obviously in the days ahead.

But obviously, the families would like to recover what they can and bring their loved ones home.

Miguel, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

We have been focusing on this now for several days, and joining us right now is James Cameron -- diver, explorer, director of "The Abyss," a deep sea thriller, and most famously, of course, "Titanic" as well, as well as many other great films.

James, I appreciate you joining us.

Someone who has devoted his life to exploration as you have in many ways under the sea, I'm wondering what is going through your mind tonight?

JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR, "TITANIC": Well, thanks, Anderson. I mean, obviously, we're all kind of heartsick from the outcome of this and I've been living with it for a few days now as some of my other colleagues in the deep submergence community.

I was out on a ship myself when the event happened on Sunday. The first I heard of it was Monday morning. I immediately got on my network, because it's a very small community in the deep submergence group, and I found out some information within about a half hour that they had lost comms, and they had lost tracking simultaneously.

The only scenario that I could come up with in my mind that could account for that was it was an implosion, a shockwave event so powerful that it actually took out a secondary system that has its own its own pressure vessel, and its own battery power supply, which is the transponder that the ship uses to track where the sub is.

So I was thinking implosion then, that's Monday morning. I got on the horn again with some other people, tracked down some intel that was probably of a military origin, although it could have been research because there are hydrophones all over the Atlantic and got confirmation that there was some kind of loud noise consistent with an implosion event.

That seemed to me enough confirmation that I let all of my inner circle of people know that we had lost our comrades, and I encouraged everybody to raise the glass in their honor on Monday.

Then I watched over the ensuing days, this whole sort of everybody running around with their hair on fire search, knowing full well that it was futile, hoping against hope that I was wrong, but knowing in my bones that I wasn't, and so it certainly wasn't a surprise today and I just feel terrible for the families that had to go through all of these false hopes that kept getting dangled, you know, as it played out.

COOPER: I just want to -- you said it was on Monday that you learned of these listening devices under the water had picked up the sound of an implosion, or what was believed to be an implosion?

CAMERON: Yes. That's -- as it came to me. Now, that's hearsay, multiple, you know, they were credible sources, so you know, I took that as a factor that I multiplied in with the other factors, and I couldn't think of any other scenario in which a sub would be lost where it lost comms and navigation at the same time and stayed out of touch, and did not surface.

I was also told, and I don't have confirmation on this that they had -- they were on descent, they were a couple hundred meters above the sea floor, and they dropped their weights.

Now, the only way for the ship to know that they had dropped their ascent weights, which would be an emergency abort, is if they had called that in, that they were ascending.

So I believe now that they had some warning, that they heard some acoustic signature of the hull beginning to de-laminate. An investigation will hopefully eventually show what did happen because we all need to know as we go forward. The deep submergence community needs to know exactly what happened.

COOPER: You've made dozens of just extraordinary deep water expeditions including more than 30 to the Titanic itself. You've also gone far deeper than the 13,000 feet where the Titanic is.



COOPER: I think you've deeper than just about anybody into the ocean. I wrote it into -- I forgot the name of the place you went, but the Challenger Deep, which is just extraordinary.

CAMERON: Challenger Deep, yes.

COOPER: Now, you went in your own design -- you went in your own designed craft, that's a submersible that was experimental and didn't go through the sort of the standard safety protocols.

CAMERON: Correct.

COOPER: But the difference is, you were not taking passengers on board.

CAMERON: Exactly.

COOPER: Would you ever have taken passengers on board a submersible that had not gone through the standard maritime safety protocols?

CAMERON: No. No, not at all. I mean, my sub that I went to the Challenger Deep dove safely three times deeper than Titanic. We made multiple dives in that sub.

That sub was a single-seater, and it was only contemplated that myself and the engineer with whom I co-designed the vehicle would be the only pilots of that sub, and we worked on it for seven years. We knew every detail of it intimately. I was involved in every phase of the testing.

So you know, I assessed the risks, I understood them very well and those were risks I was willing to take. I would never take it upon myself to ask someone else to take that type of risk.

And if I were designing a multi-seat vehicle, where I intended to be the pilot, we'd go through all of the rigorous test protocols, and review protocols that you have with let's say, ABS, which is the American Bureau of Shipping, or DNV, or German Lloyds, who are the major bureaus that class a sub, they call it classing, but it is basically certification.

And I think it was unconscionable that this group did not go through that rigorous process.

COOPER: What is -- you know, this was an experimental design. There is no question about it. It is a carbon composite. You can tell us more about what that actually means.

I mean, it's the kind of stuff used in spacecraft, but is it designed for deep underwater pressure, and what is the danger of that kind of material in this kind of environment?

CAMERON: It is completely inappropriate for a vessel that sees external pressure.

You know, carbon fiber composites are used very, very successfully for internal pressure, pressure vessels, like let's say, a scuba tank, and you can get two or three times multiple of what you could get out of steel or aluminum for that type of pressure bottle.

But for something that is seeing external pressure, all of the advantages of composite materials go away, and all the disadvantages come into play.

So if you're using a uniform material, like steel or titanium or ceramic or acrylic, you can do computer modeling with a high degree of accuracy and confidence. The second you start doing carbon composite or any kind of composite materials, you're introducing two materials that are in contact with each other, the filament itself and then the epoxy matrix that it sits within. And at that point, you have degradation failure.

So we always understood that this was the wrong material for submersible hulls, because with each pressure cycle, you can have progressive damage. So it's quite insidious, because you may have a number of successful dives, which is what happened here, and then have it fail later.

If I were diving in a sub that was fully certified, I wouldn't think about it. But even in my own sub, which had a steel hull, I knew that if I drove several, two or three times, it was probably good to go, because you can cycle steel hundreds of times, if not thousands of times. But that's not the case with the composite.

So it's quite insidious, and that I think, lulled them into a sense of confidence and led to this tragedy, but these are known things. They're known within the engineering community.

COOPER: And we also want to point out, OceanGate's former director of Marine Operations, he wrote this engineering report in 2018, I think it was. He focused his criticisms on the company's decision to rely on acoustic monitoring, the sounds that the hull made under pressure as opposed to a scan of a hull.

According to him, the company claimed no equipment existed that could perform that kind of a scan on the five-inch thick carbon fiber hull. I know it's difficult to say obviously without reading the report, but I'm wondering what you make of that because it seems like this company was making a big deal about the sensors they had that could you know, send some problem with the hull and if they could sense there was a problem, then they would have time to turn around and go back up. Clearly, they didn't. CAMERON: It's a bit like saying we have a bit of a poor design for the engine in our jet or our rocket ship, but we have a sensor that will tell us if it's on fire. That to me, that's cold comfort.

And I think that if you're building a hull where you need to have sensors to tell you that it is failing in the process of failing, you have no business designing subs or being in that sub.

They touted it, I believe, you know as a good thing, as a safety protocol, but I consider it a bad thing, because it sheds a light directly on the fundamental flaw of their design.

You have to remember, the DNA of this design concept goes back farther. It goes back to the quest to go to the Challenger Deep that I was involved in, obviously, and there was another sub design that was competing with ours at the time that was based on a wound filament composite cylinder with two titanium end caps.

And I told those guys point blank, you're going to get killed in that thing, and they ultimately never dove it. I literally told the guy who bought the sub, when its owner, Steve Fossett, the famous billionaire died in a plane crash and then the sub was then purchased by another guy to operate it, and I told him, you're going to die down there if you dived that thing, and I felt very strongly about it.

I had nothing to do with OceanGate and I never tried to warn Stockton Rush of the same thing because I thought Navy they've solved it, you know, but I was pretty opinionated about it at the time, and they had a similar idea of doing acoustic sensors, too.

They call it delamination when water ingress starts to force the layers of the fibers apart, and theoretically, you can hear it. I actually believe they heard it with their ears, not through the sensor system in the last moments of their lives, and that's quite a horrifying prospect.

COOPER: James Cameron, if you could just stay with us, we are going to take a quick break. I'd like to continue the conversation, if you can.

Later also, we'll have more in Titan's development and especially the selling of it, as James was just saying as a safe way to experience the deep.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: Back now from St. John's, Newfoundland where the submersible, Titan first went out to sea on its way to the Titanic. We're talking tonight about the five lives lost, also about the vessel itself and the questions surrounding it, namely a decision to build it out of carbon composites and uncertified safety as other such vessels are.

Back now, a deep sea explorer and "Titanic" director, James Cameron. I mean, it's extraordinary to me that this debris field is just 1,600 feet away from the bow of the Titanic. Obviously, people think about the bow of the Titanic and they think of your film, "Titanic" with that iconic scene on the bow.

I heard you earlier kind of talk about these two captains and a kind of a similarity that you see, and I'm wondering if you could talk about that.

CAMERON: I think there's a great almost surreal irony here, which is Titanic sank because the captain took it full steam into an ice field at night on a moonless night with very poor visibility after he had been repeatedly warned by telegram, by Marconi gram, by radio, during the day, that that's what was ahead of him.

And so I think, we are also seeing a parallel here with unheeded warnings about a sub that was not certified where the entire deep submergence community actually, or not the entire community, but a large number of them got together to write a letter to OceanGate, the company and say, we believe that this could lead to catastrophe.

It was less a criticism of the engineering than of the process, but it contemplated the fact that the engineering probably wouldn't pass muster from a certification bureau, and so they were trying to head this whole thing off. It was our worst nightmare.

I mean, all of us in the deep submergence community, people like myself that pilot subs and design subs, implosion is obviously the specter that looms over us all the time, but because of that, that's the thing that you engineer for the most years in advance, so that should never be the problem.

I've never believed that if I was, you know, going to have a serious problem in a sub that it would be implosion, maybe entanglement in a fishing net, maybe a fire from the electronics, hard to rule those things out. Implosion, absolutely not, especially with modern finite element analysis and you know, computer-aided design.

COOPER: Do you -- I mean, what should we learn from this? Because obviously, deep water exploration, I mean, there is a pretty great -- I mean, I don't know if it's great, but a very good safety record with people who have done the certification, people who have really studied this.

CAMERON: Yes. It is phenomenal.

COOPER: Do you worry about this having an impact on the continued exploration?

CAMERON: I do. I do. Look, I'm not worried about exploration because explorers will go, and I'm not worried about innovation because people will innovate.

I'm worried that it has a negative impact on let's say, citizen explorers, tourists, you know, but these are serious people with serious curiosity, willing to put serious money down to go to these interesting places and I don't want to discourage that.

But I think that it's almost now the lesson, the takeaway is, make sure if you're going to go into a vehicle, whether it's an aircraft or a surface craft or a submersible, that it has been through certifying agencies, you know, that it's been signed off.

Every day we trust our lives to engineering: We step into an elevator. We make an assumption that somebody somewhere has done the math properly, and it's all been certified properly. We should take the same precautions when we get into a submersible, even if it's at a resort and we're only going down 300 feet or a thousand feet.

You know, I'm a partner in a submersible company called Triton. I'll say that upfront, Triton not Titan, and Triton has a perfect operational safety record across 20 vehicles and 10,000 hours of people diving to depths up to a thousand meters. It can be done, but it requires rigor.

And I think all of us in the community now, now that our worst fears have happened and we know why it happened, I think largely, you know it puts us now on even more alert to be disciplined and to really think about the ethics of it.


You know, there's a lot of countries where subs are diving all over the world. You're not going to have regulation everywhere that solves this problem. It's really more that we have to just accept a standard of practice that we don't encourage operators to work without proper ADS or German Lloyds or whatever it is, certification.

COOPER: You know, the Coast Guard rear admiral today was talking about the unforgiving environment at those depths. Can you just talk about that feeling of being down there?


COOPER: I mean, I can't believe how deep you have gone into the ocean, three times deeper than the Titanic, I think you said.


COOPER: What is that feeling of being down there?

CAMERON: Well, I always say, you'd have to take a backhoe with you to go deeper than I went anywhere on this planet. That is a feeling of remoteness.

I knew when I made that dive that there was no hope of rescue, that there literally was no vehicle in the world, no matter if you could fly it in, no matter if I could survive long enough on my life support system. There was no rescue. I had to self-rescue if I had a problem.

And we thought about that for the seven years that we spent building the sub and I designed a lot of safety systems myself knowing I was going to be in that sub, in terms of how to drop the weights. If I was incapacitated, the weights would drop themselves after a certain period of time.

Many, many communications beacons for when I got back to the surface if I had drifted off someplace. I would have been picked up by satellite, they would have reported my position. I had radio, I had visual beacons, it wouldn't have required an aircraft search. They would have found me pretty quickly.

So you think all of that stuff through, but the feeling in the moment, it's almost a sacred space. It is a place where there's nobody else there, it's just you -- you and yourself and a sense of deep time. You're looking at something that no one has ever seen. It's been that way for hundreds of millions, if not billions of years.

At Titanic, it's different. You feel the presence of the tragedy, you know, and I think that's the lure. I think that's why people want to go and experience it for themselves, to feel, to remember history, you know.

I think people go to battlefields, to Gettysburg to Normandy Beach, and all of those things to remember history and to take it in and make it part of their lives.

I don't think that -- you know, I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I mean, some people don't like, they say it's a grave site and that sort of thing. But I think it is important for us to remember.

But here is a case starkly, today where the collective we didn't remember the lesson of Titanic. These guys at OceanGate didn't, because the arrogance and the hubris that sent that ship to its doom is exactly the same thing that sent those people in that sub to their fate and I just think it's heartbreaking. I think it's heartbreaking that it was so preventable.

COOPER: James Cameron, I'm sorry, we're talking under these circumstances, but I appreciate the level of detail and expertise that you bring to the conversation. So thank you very much.

CAMERON: Well, thank you, Anderson. It's been a pleasure.

COOPER: All right, we wish you well.

Still ahead tonight, we're going to look at the effort to recover the wreckage and I'll speak with a retired Navy physician about what likely happened to those aboard the submersible during the implosion.



COOPER: We were just speaking with Director James Cameron about the dangers associated with visiting the Titanic wreckage, specifically the dangers of the carbon fiber composite used to make the Titan submersible. One of the challenges now trying to retrieve the wreckage of it. Joining me now is Robert Mester, founder and senior salvage master at Northwest Maritime Consultants. Robert, I appreciate you being with us. How -- I mean, if they choose to bring up -- I mean, try to bring up some of the material to try to understand exactly what happened, what kind of resources would be needed to salvage the remaining parts of that vessel?

ROBERT MESTER, FOUNDER, NORTHWEST MARITIME CONSULTANTS: Well, there's a number of vehicles and vessels that are available. Some are on site. Some of the factors that causes the problem is the surface condition. It's the worst weather they've had in 40 years in the North Sea.

And the stability of the platform for operations is critical in order to be successful infinite location and removal of the things that they wish to bring up for investigation. So we have the equipment. The other factor is, of course, the cost to do it. It's a very expensive process.

COOPER: And these ROVs that they have, I mean, the one that was able to locate the two debris fields, it does have arms that can be moved. Is that -- I mean, would the arms literally sort of pick up debris pieces or would it bring down cables to try to wrap around them? How would that work?

MESTER: It could be used to pick up small pieces, but the major portion of the hull is going to be quite heavy and that ROV will not be able to lift it, nor will the umbilical attach to it, because it has a strength. It's not designed to lift tons of material. But it could take down other lifting utensils that could be attached and remotely inflated or filled with other materials.

They used a number of techniques. One was to pump down diesel fuel from the surface to a bladder, which causes the item to rise at a very slow and fixed rate, unlike a bag, that would be dangerous because it would never make it to surface. The bag would exceed its capacity by the surface, the outside air. The pressure on it, causing the bag to expand beyond its capacity.

So, there are a number of methods, and our military has methods and has equipment that would make it possible. But again, it's all about the cost to move forward to get that done.

COOPER: Right.


COOPER: And, I mean, who -- maybe this is a dumb question, but who would pay for that? If somebody -- I mean, I'm not sure who would want to. Obviously, you know, perhaps the company would want to, but I don't know what their resources are. Is there some sort of, I mean, an organization like the FAA with airplanes that investigates these sorts of things?

MESTER: Well, with the FAA, and that's a real good example to talk about. When an aircraft goes down, as we know, we have the Malaysian aircraft, which is still missing. Very large amount of money spent trying to locate that. There are a number of private companies and agencies that have a vested interest in finding out exactly what happened because a lot of the public fly.


So, we -- recovery aircraft in the water, I've been involved in many of those, and they chest right down to circuits when possible in recovery. On this particular project, it's more -- there's only five people. It's not a mode of transportation that's readily accepted or a large amount of people use. And someone is going to have to probably fund this operation. And once again, it is extremely expensive.

COOPER: Right.


COOPER: Yes. Robert Mester, I appreciate your expertise. Thank you so much.


COOPER: Joining me now to discuss what may have happened to those on board is Florida International University professor and retired Navy physician, Dr. Aileen Marty. Dr. Marty, I appreciate you being with us. Sorry, it's, again under these circumstances.

The Coast Guard officials say the submersible suffered a catastrophic implosion. Can you just talk about what that actually means? Because, obviously, you know, there -- in the last couple of days when people thought maybe they were running out of oxygen, the idea of what that would mean for those on board. But an implosion is very, very quick.

DR. AILEEN MARTY, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Yes, that's the -- the one good thing about this horrific tragedy, is that the -- when you get an implosion like that, it happens in a fraction of a millisecond. I mean, it's incredibly quick. And it takes more than that. It takes about 0.25 more than that for the human brain to even realize it's happening.

So these people would have -- the entire thing would have collapsed before the individuals inside would even realize that there was a problem. They may have heard a little something ahead of time. They had gotten a little bit of extra nitrogen in their brain, but they probably didn't know anything and then the thing exploded, so.

COOPER: That's extraordinary. It happens that quick. I heard you say, and I forgot to figure about how fast something implodes, the miles per hour that it implodes.

MARTY: That's right. About 1,500 miles per hour. That's the rate. And that's just -- and when you're talking about something that's small as that.

COOPER: 1,500 miles per hour.

MARTY: Yes. COOPER: So, I mean, literally that's --

MARTY: 1,500 miles per hour.

COOPER: At 1,500 miles per hour.


COOPER: So that's why you're saying it's so fast that the human brain can't even respond that quickly. So feeling of fear or pain, I mean, it would have been instantaneous.

MARTY: Would not happen. These people, they died, and that's horrible, but they died in a way that they didn't even realize that they were about to die. And so, ultimately, among the many ways in which we can pass, that's painless.

COOPER: There was a question to the Navy -- the Coast Guard Rear Admiral today about the recovery of bodies. I don't want to get into too many details, but there would not be bodies, there would not be bones even. Is that correct, to recover?

MARTY: That's correct. There would be virtually nothing. These people's bodies were completely collapsed in just little minute fragments. There's very unlikely to find anything there of human tissue. I mean, if you were to search for DNA, you might possibly find it.

But, you know, we're talking about an ocean and we're talking about a large debris field. So you're not going to find much in the way of human remains.

COOPER: Dr. Aileen Marty, I appreciate you being with us. It's -- I'm glad to know it was quick. I mean, it's awful no matter what, but I appreciate the detail.

MARTY: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you.

Joining me now is someone who knows firsthand what it's like to be inside that submersible. Colin Taylor was on the Titan with his son last summer. Colin, I appreciate you joining us. You actually were able -- you were on the Titan, you went down to the Titanic. What was it like being inside?

COLIN TAYLOR, WENT ON TITANIC EXPEDITION IN 2022: It's a truly remarkable experience. I took my son down last summer, July of last year, and it was something we'll never forget. It really was.

COOPER: Did you -- were you frightened? Was it claustrophobic? Was it -- I mean, beyond the extraordinary experience of finally looking out the window and seeing the Titanic.

TAYLOR: Yes. It -- I mean, it is a little frightening to get into that submersible and to know that you're going down 2.5 miles. I mean, you have the, you know, literal and figurative weight of the ocean on you. And so --

COOPER: Do you feel pressure?

TAYLOR: It's -- the vessel is maintained at one atmosphere, so there's no real pressure inside. But there is a sense of pressure, I would say, just being that deep in the ocean.

COOPER: And is it -- it was -- is it cold down there?

TAYLOR: It is cold down there.


TAYLOR: The ambient temperature is close to, you know, freezing down there. And the titanium domes on either end, they pick up that cold very quickly. So there's some condensation from the breathing and everything else that goes right. You know, it's on the domes itself. You feel the cold.


COOPER: When you were thinking about doing it, did you know anything about the --


COOPER: -- you know, the safety protocols or anything like that?

TAYLOR: Of course. And so, you know, I did a lot of diligence up front on the risks. A friend of mine is -- or was an engineer on a nuclear sub. I spent some time with him asking about it, and he told me that he knew these people, knew the operation and would put his own family on it.

And I spent a lot of time with -- in talking about some of the risks that were involved. So I was aware of some of the things that have come up or anything.

COOPER: I mean, it's got to be such a bizarre feeling for you now.

TAYLOR: Oh, my gosh. You know, look, first, I'm heartbroken about what's happened here. And I feel -- you know, I'm so deeply saddened for the people on board and their families. It's just -- it is --

COOPER: I keep (INAUDIBLE) the father and son on board and just it's just so sad.

TAYLOR: Yes. And it's just -- it's -- you know, it keeps reverberating through my brain. But, you know, yes, it's horrible.

COOPER: What was communications -- were there comms in terms of like you couldn't talk. It was just sending a ping. Is that right to the surface?

TAYLOR: Yes, that's right. So, I mean, you're bolted in, as I think, you know, at surface level, there is a beacon on board. Actually, my cell phone seemed to be working at surface. I was picking up GPS signals. But as you go down, as soon as you start descending through the water column, there's no GPS.

And, you know, radio communication becomes impossible. So there are a couple of systems. One of them is a sonar-based system. So it's sending off pings. The ship is sending -- the submersible is sending off pings. And that's picked up by the mothership.

And then there is a text-based communication. It's very, very low bandwidth and very slow. So you type in a shorthand, but there's constant communication back and forth. And the mothership is actually trying to guide you and tell you where you are on the way down. It's triangulating your position and trying to figure out how close or not you are to the Titanic.

COOPER: Is there -- there's no sort of sonar on board.

TAYLOR: There is sonar on board, but the sonar on board has a range of about 50 meters to 100 meters. So, you know, we went down for two and a half hours, hit the bottom, and our pilot, who I think is incredibly skilled, you know, had been studying the currents and the wind and everything at the surface.

And so we were very lucky. When we flipped the sonar on, there was the bow of the Titanic, 50 meters away. And so we then inched --

COOPER: 50 meters away?

TAYLOR: 50 meters away. And so we inched up to it and, you know, out of the gloom with the lights of the submersible on, there is the bow of the Titanic. And it just blows your mind.

COOPER: That's incredible.

TAYLOR: It is incredible.

COOPER: And how long did you spend on the Titanic?

TAYLOR: So at that point, our pilot gave the control to PH. So PH Nargeolet, who you've been referring to, who is a remarkable man, took the control of it and really toured us around the bow of --


TAYLOR: -- the Titanic.

COOPER: And was he talking about what was --

TAYLOR: For about five hours, heavy thing.


TAYLOR: I mean, we spent all week with him, so we got to know him very well. But he, you know, for five hours, we got --

COOPER: Yes. TAYLOR: -- all of his knowledge about the Titanic.


TAYLOR: And it was incredible. We did try and make a run for the stern, which is about 600 meters away. We couldn't find it. And then we did in the first surface. Another two and a half hour ride out.

COOPER: Yes. Well, I'm glad you were OK on that. And I appreciate you talking to us tonight.

TAYLOR: My pleasure.

COOPER: Yes. I'm sorry to these circumstances as I said. Colin Taylor, thank you.

TAYLOR: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, the promises OceanGate Expeditions made of adventure and safety before its launch. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Whatever led to the catastrophic structural failure and implosion that destroyed the Titan submersible and took five lives, this was not just a research vehicle, it was a commercial one, clearly, with paying passengers and being promoted in part as being safe.

Our Randi Kaye tonight -- Randi Kaye has more.


STOCKTON RUSH, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, OCEANGATE: And with this, I thee, christened Titan.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In April 2018, employees of OceanGate, including its CEO and Co-founder Stockton Rush, christened the brand new Titan submersible it had just developed. The project was four years in the making.

RUSH: This will be one of the great moments of submersibles in that this technology is what we need to explore the ocean depth. We're going to go to 4,000 meters after our testing in the Bahamas, assuming all things pan out as we expect, and we validate our engineering, and that will open up 50 percent of the planet.

KAYE (voice-over): OceanGate used its social media channels and its website to drum up excitement about the Titan. Its website describes the Titan as a state of the art vessel used to explore the wreck of the Titanic through its Titanic expeditions.

In one OceanGate YouTube video, Rush teased the submersible as a once in a lifetime experience.

RUSH: You will see things that no one has ever seen before. There is just a ton of things to look at. All kinds of amazing things happen. And so, it all comes together to make a truly unique experience that you just have to experience to believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a thrill ride for tourists. It's much more. It is an eight day, one of a kind experience.

KAYE (voice-over): In this YouTube video, the company promoted its Titanic experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OceanGate Expeditions offers you the once in a lifetime opportunity to be a specially trained crew member safely diving to the Titanic wreckage site.

KAYE (voice-over): The promos include rave reviews from those who have been on board the Titan.

DEREK CHAN, ADVENTURE TRAVELER: There's no other trip like this. Fewer people have been to Titanic than went to space.

RUSH: We saw things that maybe human eyes have never seen before.

KAYE (voice-over): Beyond the experience itself, the company repeatedly promoted its safety.

RUSH: It's very well engineered and very safe.

KAYE (voice-over): Videos also included field tests showing the Titan at work.

RUSH: Out here were -- this is really focused on one thing and that's the pressure vessel and making sure that that component, which is clearly the most critical component of the sub, is safe and capable of handling depths down to 4,000 meters repeatedly with people on board.

KAYE (voice-over): Employees also offer testimonials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So one of the best parts about being in the submersible is you get to bring other people with you. Just seeing the excitement they get from going underwater, it's pretty awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I found several shipwrecks, about 30 shipwrecks that no one's ever found before and I would love to visit them in a man's sub.


KAYE (voice-over): After all the excitement, plenty of successful missions and all the hope it would forever change ocean exploration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excitement, thrills. And adventure on the high seas.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: During my interview earlier with James Cameron, he called the Titan's carbon composite design, quote, "completely inappropriate for a vessel that sees external pressure". And he said that, quote, "You may have a number of successful dives and have it fail later".

A carbon composite construction was one of the experimental methods the makers of the Titan used for the vessel that could fit five people, yet still be lightweight. It was a concern at the time among some, including DJ Virnig, a former OceanGate subcontractor who worked on the development of Titan. He joins me now.

DJ, I appreciate you being with us, and I'm sorry for what you must be going through. How does what we believe happened as catastrophic implosion? How does it align with any of the concerns you had?

DOUG VIRNIG, WORKED ON DEVELOPMENT OF TITAN: Well, it seems to be in direct line with the engineering concerns that everybody knew. I mean, it's not a surprising thing, but this is kind of material science in real time. It hadn't been tried before, and pretty much everybody involved understood the risks.

COOPER: Your concern was it about the carbon fiber being used for the hull? I mean, what exactly, in your view, made that unsuitable?

VIRNIG: Well, carbon fiber, you know, high tensile strength fibers work really well under tension, and it is just kind of logic that they don't work so well under tensile strength or compression. And initially, I was very excited about the program, and it was my honor and my pleasure to work with Stockton Rush and the crew.

And this -- you know, all of this is really beyond my pay grade, but it made sense to me that this -- that particular engineering choice may lead to some trouble down the road.

COOPER: Did you or anyone else at the company raise concerns about the integrity of carbon fiber? And I'm wondering, if so, what was the reaction?

VIRNIG: Well, so when you're developing something like this, there's a lot of people who have the engineering prowess to speak into various aspects of a build like this. And material scientists, material experts, subject matter experts would raise concerns, and then there would be steps by OceanGate to mitigate those concerns.

And really, whenever you start a project like this and you make some initial choices, it's just -- one thing builds on another. So there was a definite --


VIRNIG: -- reason to pick carbon fiber, but, yes, it may not be the right material.

COOPER: Yes. DJ Virnig, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

I'm joined now by someone who's been with us this week, a new Hamish Harding and Stockton Rush, well, Per Wimmer, who was involved with two missions attempting to reach the Titanic. Per, I'm sorry for the loss of your friends Hamish Harding and Stockton Rush. Can you just talk about how you're feeling? What went through your mind when the U.S. Coast Guard today finally announced the catastrophic implosion?

PER WIMMER, ADVENTURER & FRIEND OF MISSING SUBMERSIBLE PASSENGERS: Yes. It was obviously devastating and heartbreaking when we finally heard the verdict, if you like. Whilst we've been very optimistic and trying to stay positive and hoping for a little miracle for the submersible suddenly to come up to the surface.

It became increasingly clear that time was up. And obviously, with the U.S. Coast Guard given the final verdict, that was it so heartbreaking, devastating. The world has lost five great men, I'm afraid, two of which I knew.

COOPER: The fact that this vehicle had gone down to the Titanic on a number of occasions had brought people down without failing in the past. I'm wondering what -- how you account for that. Why failure now?

WIMMER: I'm not an engineer, but there had been discussions in the science community that the material, there could be some questions around it, and it clearly was working a number of times. But during the 2021 season and 2022 seasons, there were a number of dives that took place, but not all of them were successful. Some of them got aborted and perhaps for all cautiousness or safety reasons, et cetera.


But the big question was always going to be around, does this composite material, can that withstand these enormous pressures? It is a new way of building submersibles compared to the old solid titanium nickel and steel like the miR-1, miR-2 that the Russians been using for a long time and it was also been using on previous missions.

And there was also the ones that I signed up for in 2012 before I ended up signing up with OceanGate in 2019. So it is -- it was a new technology, obviously not certified. But yes, sadly it proved not to be solid.

COOPER: The Coast Guard suggested today that the implosion likely occurred when the submersible first went missing about an hour and 45 minutes or so into the voyage. As we mentioned, a U.S. Navy official told us that they discovered an acoustic anomaly, quote, "consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the Titan submersible was operating when communications were lost", end quote.

They also said those noises were likely some form of natural life or sounds given off by other ships. Those noises that we had been told about over the last several days, the banging that had sound that had been reported, do you think those were now unrelated? I mean, if there was -- if the implosion occurred right away then clearly those sounds were unrelated.

WIMMER: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the U.S. Coast Guards know better than I do because they had got this sona down there in the water. And if they had heard that kind of big sound from the implosion on the Sunday on the very day they went down, obviously, nobody -- they hadn't disseminated that so nobody knew about it. But if that is now in retrospect the case, yes, that would seem quite likely.

If you think about it, if the material was going to give in on the way down and it couldn't withstand the pressures obviously as you went down to 1 hour and 45 minutes which probably been around 2,500 meters or so, well then that has got to be the point where it gave up.

But yes, the U.S. Coast Guard has these informations. We haven't had them until now and I think the investigation will really show eventually what really happened.

COOPER: Obviously, this is personal for you. I mean, you lost two friends in this tragedy. What do you want people to know about them?

WIMMER: Hamish was a person who was larger than life, an absolutely super amazing person. Top guy, great businessman, very successful in the aviation space and also a very, very accomplished adventurer. Three were Guinness World Records to his name. He traveled to the South Pole with Buzz Aldrin and a friend of mine here from England.

He'd really done some amazing things in the adventure space and he was always looking for the next adventure. He was just a guy who enjoyed life and enjoyed pushing the limits, and it's a really great loss to the world.

And in terms of Stockton, obviously, he was trying his very best to build these new things. He was a keen explorer as well, and it's just sad to see all five of them, quite frankly, disappeared just like this. And my hearts go out to their families.

COOPER: Do you think this is going to impact deep water exploration in the future?

WIMMER: I think -- you remember when the Titanic sank. Obviously, that was a massive -- that a world event, the world's media was on this thing and the sinking of the Titanic led to new regulations related to how many rescue boats you had on it.

On Titanic, there was not enough rescue boats for everybody. That got changed through global legislation, safety measures got put in place, et cetera. So that Titanic event more than 100 years ago changed regulation.

It is quite possible that with the Titan imploding like this, and with the partial lack of -- or maybe a gap in the regulatory space, if you do, dives in international borders. Quite possible that the Titan might actually be the catalyst for more regulation within the submersibles field, or subsea field, just like we have it in space.

You know, I'm -- COOPER: Interesting.

WIMMER: -- as you know, I'm going to space next year.


WIMMER: But in order to have a rocket, you need to have it certified and testing and testing and testing. You can't just fly up with it like that. So maybe the subsea space --


WIMMER: -- is now moving to a more regulated space, like the space arenas.

COOPER: Yes, we'll see what comes out of this.

Per Wimmer, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

CNN -- that's it for us. "CNN PRIMETIME" with Kaitlan Collins starts now. Kaitlan?