Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash


Graeme Spence

I had lunch today with a friend, both of us at a loose end, we ended up going to Nando’s nearby because of the three road traffic accidents on the road into Edinburgh. Quickly the conversation turned to that submarine – which was amusing because the table next to us was also discussing the very same little submarine that was lost in the Atlantic Ocean.

We exchanged gossip and facts about what we knew about the unfolding situation. What would it be like on that little ship? How did the toilet situation work? Was it cold? Where was it? What would you talk about? It was hard not to stray into “Would you ever do something so risky?”. The answer was a resounding no, neither of us would put our lives onto that little untested makeshift submarine.

I’d eat a bit of my spicy pita and my friend would ask how I could possibly eat the hottest sauce. It’s always been a thing I’ve done, force-feed myself hot sauce beyond my actual ability to tolerate it. This would lead us to the discussion of the food they’d have available to them when they believed they’d be back the same day.

There is plenty of media around the inside of the submarine now and you can probably find answers to most of the things we’d been chatting about. However, in the cold breeze of the evening sky, I’d learn the submarine and submariners had perished through what looked to be a failure of the pressure vessel while next to the Titanic.

Many column inches and online tweets have been raised about the credulousness of wealthy people being so reckless with their lives. Even more, an analysis has been done on how many times the waiver you signed before boarding informed you of your likely impending death. Lawyers will now likely argue for a while over whether anyone actually understood that or if it was more like an American Medicine advert for hay fever – with symptoms ranging from drowsiness, paralysis and possibly death that is generally accepted to be unlikely.

Stockton Rush rose to fame – sponsored by his phenomenal James Bond-esque name and set of toys. All round a true character and a stubborn adventurer. He proclaimed once that “at some point, safety is just pure waste” if the media are to be believed. However, he wasn’t gambling on someone else’s life – he absolutely went down as captain of his own ship believing presumably he was right. Stockton Rush is married to Wendy Rush, the great-great-granddaughter of Isidor and Ida Straus, who remained onboard the Titanic together so that others could escape to safety.

It’s perhaps reassuring that at the depth of the Titanic – that the pressure would have rendered a swift end without pain or likely consciousness of the actual event. Perhaps a creak but not much else. You may consider this in poor taste but the alternative could have been freezing in a small chamber while gasping for air for several hours.

The Titanic itself has been of great historical interest since its untimely demise. It too had an heir of confidence that was misplaced – believing it didn’t really need lifeboats for all the souls on board as ‘god himself couldn’t sink it’. The subsequent movie satiated many cinema-goers’ appetites – making the story of the sinking ship the worldwide (adjusted for inflation) number 3 movie of all time. Clearly, there is an appetite for this story.

OceanGate likely knew this when they named the submarine the Titan – dropping the ‘ic’ from Titanic. The little submarine had one button and a game controller. Truly something like something in a movie. It looked sleek and futuristic. It clearly had an appeal at $250,000 a seat for the expedition.

The question comes down to this though – why would you get on the thing, surely the risk was just too high?

Well…. Adventure.

Seriously, that’s all it takes for some people. People love adventure. We’ve had people circumnavigate the globe in hot air balloons, others would row across literal oceans, and Wilbur and Orville Wright would strap cloth to wood and rope and jump off heights to achieve flight.

In the sixties, the world would look up and watch humanity tackle the reaches of space. Eleven series and thirteen movies of Star Trek later and we can safely assume people are still engrossed by that particular frontier of adventure. Star Wars ranks just under the Titanic movie too for takings. We cannot say astronauts went beyond the atmosphere of our planet believing they were fully safe.

But that’s what we do. That truly is what is next. We dive into the deepest oceans just to get a better view. We fly into space because we are adventurers through and through.

The risk takers and round pegs in square holes are what bounce innovation on. It’s why we have many modern medicines, and why we can sail the seas and explore the stars. It’s why we can speak to each other on phones from the other side of the planet. Someone always leads the way with risk.

The world’s media has covered this on a 24-hour basis without almost no real facts or updates from the authorities. Ships, planes, and underwater drones have arrived in record time and numbers on a countdown to doom. It’s captivated many and stimulated concern for why the media covered the sinking of a refugee ship much less which had a much greater human cost.

We are wired to be drawn to the unknown. We are built to explore. We thrive on the idea of our own personal adventure. From your very first steps to your last breaths you learn and absorb like a sponge – thirsty for knowledge and advancement of your own understanding.

Everyone dies eventually and the majority of us go through the failure of our body’s own ability to keep us going but oddly in all our dreams, in the movies we watch, the books we read, and the stories we tell – we die in exciting and adventurous ways. In many ways, it’s a contradiction to talk about safety oversight when our entire entertainment media is geared towards exactly the opposite.

The little rules we break, maybe not wearing a helmet on a bike, eating spicy food beyond our body’s ability to accommodate it, driving a little faster than the speed limit – seem insignificant in a risk calculation. It just so happens that some people have a different way of inputting the numbers into the calculator.

To Adventurers; Hamish Harding, Shahzada Dawood, Suleman Dawood, Paul-Henry Nargeolet and Stockton Rush – I hope you had one hell of an adventure and got to see the sunken ship in its full glory. We stand up and we look forward to what’s next – and you lived it.

There are many worse ways to die. May everyone find their own personal adventure and live their life to the fullest.

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