Titan submersible, operated by OceanGate Expeditions to explore the wreckage of the sunken SS Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland, is seen on a dive in an undated photograph. OSV News photo/OceanGate Expeditions handout via Reuters

Our hearts must go on God’s authority

  • July 13, 2023

The parallels are eerie, the lessons not learned. The 2023 implosion of the Titan submersible and the 1912 sinking of the Titanic ship have much to teach us about the dangers of arrogant self-assuredness and discriminatory treatment based on class and race.

Up until Titan’s implosion in mid-June, officials at OceanGate Expeditions continually sang the praises of the submersible’s “innovative” materials and construction.

CEO Stockton Rush and his crew were the renegades who bucked best practices and certifications to create a craft that would open up the deepest corners of the planet.

While not directly claiming Titan was indestructible, Rush and his team’s descriptions of what they said were the submersible’s leading-edge designs implied that the craft was safe enough for its passengers.

Rush once told a friend he would “even shut down the company, before I will operate an unsafe sub,” according to e-mails quoted in an Insider report. Ironically, Rush fired an employee who raised nine safety concerns and told another whistleblower that he was “tired of industry players who try to use a safety argument to stop innovation.

Flash back to 1912, when the Titanic was widely thought to be “unsinkable” mainly because of its innovative construction of watertight compartments and electronic watertight doors.

The online blog History on the Net says the President of the White Star Line, A.S. Franklin, answered reports of the Titanic being in trouble by saying: “We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is unsinkable.”

According to the blog, the quote in the movie —  “God Himself could not sink this ship!” — purportedly came from a deck hand who was describing the ship’s safety.

Inordinate faith, trust and hope in science and technology and in our own intelligence and efforts is a fool’s game that can quickly turn into idolatry.

If we take God’s supremacy out of our lives and let self-reliance invade our thinking, we can become so focused on our own desires, plans and actions that we fail to see the bigger picture of how our actions discount other peoples’ needs: the need for safety, in the case of the Titan and Titanic.

Cutting corners in the midst of fierce industry competition — to be the most innovative, most profitable, to be the best in class — led to fatal flaws: the weakness of carbon fibre under stress in the case of the Titan, and poor design and a serious lack of lifeboats in the case of the Titanic.

Despite dire warnings about defects in the Titan and the presence of icebergs near the Titanic, it was full steam ahead for the two vessels. As a result, five lives were lost on the Titan and about 1,500 died in the Titanic disaster.

About half of those who died on the Titanic were third-class passengers. During their journey, the poor had been locked behind grilled gates to prevent them from mingling with the wealthy first- and second-class passengers. Tragically, stewards were unable to unlock all the gates in time.

It was a terrifying end for third-class passengers, as an ABC Report describes: “Those stuck in the lower decks had no idea what was happening and were left trapped and confused.” The report says three-quarters of the third-class passengers perished.

A similar troubling trend emerges with the Titan’s rescue operation. Contrast the massive multi-national mobilization of resources for the Titan deep sea rescue to what happened when a fishing boat carrying an estimated 750 migrants from Libya to Italy made a distress call to Italian authorities on June 13: nothing.

Seven hours later, the boat started going around in circles for more than six hours. The Greek Coast Guard claimed the boat was steadily on its path and that people on board didn’t want assistance.

The boat capsized early the next morning: a little more than 100 people had been rescued, with the remaining drowned or missing. Officials say hundreds of passengers — Egyptians, Syrians, Pakistanis, Afghans and Palestinians — could have been trapped below deck.

The situation clearly shows the unequal value the world places on human life. We must challenge practices favouring certain groups over others, which frequently arise when we’re competitive or too arrogantly self-assured.

Recognizing God’s authority over our lives and submitting our will to His puts us on the path to be accountable to others, especially the poor and marginalized.

(Majtenyi is a public relations officer specializing in research at an Ontario university.)

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.