Construction work is complete for an essential part of the dive system that’s due to carry scientists and amateur adventurers down to the world-famous Titanic shipwreck this summer.
The nearly 11-ton mobile subsea platform will be used to launch a five-person submersible into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and bring it back to the surface at the end of each dive.
Everest Marine. a division of Burlington, Wash.-based Penn Cove Shellfish, spent five months on the custom fabrication of the 38-foot-long aluminum platform. It’s designed to be used with the Cyclops 2 deep-sea submersible that’s been assembled by OceanGate at its headquarters in Everett, Wash.
The submersible and its platform are due to go through a round of shallow-water dives in Puget Sound this month, followed by deep-water testing in the Bahamas in April.
Those tests will lead up to the inaugural Titanic campaign in June, which will make a series of dives to the ship’s remains, 13,000 feet beneath the surface of the North Atlantic.
The Titanic is arguably the world’s most famous shipwreck, left behind by its sinking during its maiden voyage in 1912. More than 1,500 of the ocean liner’s 2,224 passengers and crew died in the tragedy.
After decades of lying undisturbed, the Titanic wreck was rediscovered in 1985. Since then, scientific and tourist expeditions have documented its deterioration due to natural causes.
The crews for this year’s Titanic Survey Expedition will include professional pilots and researchers as well as mission specialists who are paying more than $100,000 each to be part of the expedition.
Both Cyclops 2 and its launch-and-recovery platform incorporate cutting-edge technologies for undersea operations. For Cyclops 2, those innovations include a carbon-composite pressure vessel and streamlined electronic controls.
The newly finished mobile platform can be disassembled for transport on standard flatbed trucks, and reassembled when it’s time to go into the water. Ballast tanks can be flooded to sink the platform into the water, to a depth about 30 feet below the effects of surface waves. Once submerged, Cyclops 2 lifts off the platform to begin its mission.
At the end of each mission, the submersible returns to the platform and gets locked into place. The ballast tanks are filled up with air from low-pressure tanks, and the entire dive system rises back to the surface.
Remote-controlled mechanisms are used for engaging and disengaging the submersible, which eliminates the need for manual labor by a scuba-diving support team. No crane or A-frame is required, which means Cyclops 2’s crew can work from nearly any local ship of opportunity.
“We knew there had to be a more efficient way to launch and recover our submersibles,” OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush said today in a news release. “The OceanGate team did a fantastic job in the design and engineering of the platform, and Everest Marine made it a reality.”
Everest Marine engineer Jim Nagel said he “couldn’t be prouder of this project and the opportunity it provides for the advancement of ocean exploration.”
“As a fellow local Northwest business, it was an honor to work with the OceanGate crew on this unique opportunity,” Nagel said.