BY BRYAN CORLISS
You’re a sophisticated adventure traveler. You’ve kayaked the Gorge du Verdon in France, pondered Man’s insignificance near Aboriginal sacred sites in Australia’s King’s Canyon and you explored Mexico’s Copper Canyon long before it was trendy. But have you ever explored the Hudson Canyon? Unless your name is Arthur Curry and you’re secretly Aquaman, the answer, sadly, is no – but an Everett company is about to change that. OceanGate operates a fleet of three deep-sea submersibles. The most-modern of them is the five-passenger Titan, which was built using carbon fiber hulls – not unlike the fuselages of 787s assembled by Boeing in Everett. Much of the company’s work is scientific: OceanGate’s subs have conducted surveys of marine life in Puget Sound, off the coast of San Francisco and in the Bahamas. They’re also available to do surveys of potential underwater mining and drilling sites. The United States controls the rights over economic resources on the seafloor 200 nautical miles off its shores, a huge expanse that could be filled with diamonds or rare minerals or previously unknown species, notes OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush.
Half of the United States is under water, and we haven’t mapped it,” he told Smithsonian Magazine. “We don’t know what resources are out there.
But OceanGate also offers amateur enthusiasts a chance (for a fee) to explore the ocean floor. The company this year is conducting weekly dives into Possession Sound, where the Snohomish River empties into Puget Sound. In August, the company plans a limited number of dives into the Hudson Canyon, a gorge a mile deep that was carved into the continental shelf east of New York City by the Hudson River during the Ice Age, when sea levels were 400 feet lower than today. Much about the canyon is unknown.
You may be the first to observe and document a 40,000-year-old deep-sea coral, a new species, a long-lost shipwreck, or you may catch a glimpse of deep-diving whales or sharks, the company teases on its website.
The cost is $75,000 for a team of three tourists, who will be dubbed “mission specialists” and assigned to collect data during the dives, accompanied by a pilot and a research expert. The Hudson Canyon dives are a warm-up for the planned exploration of the wreck of the Titanic, 12,000 feet down at the bottom of the Atlantic near Newfoundland, next year. Getting to the Titanic has not been easy – in 2018, planned trips were canceled after a dockside lightning strike fried the Titan’s electronics; last year’s dives hit a snag with Canadian government permitting; and recently sensors detected wear in the sub’s hull, which caused this year’s planned dives to be scrubbed.
But OceanGate has proven that Titan’s design is sound – it’s already been down more than 12,000 feet. Armed with an additional $18 million in funding from investors, the company is working to build three more subs to make the trips in the summer of 2021. Along the way, OceanGate has benefited from a close relationship with Washington State University’s Everett branch campus, which has trained four of the company’s five electrical engineers, including team lead Mark Walsh. “We are on the precipice of making history,” Walsh told WSU-Everett’s online newsletter. “It is an awesome feeling.”