The US Coast Guard confirmed Thursday that debris found 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic belonged to the missing Titan submersible.
Submersibles are designed to withstand crushing underwater pressures, like those 12,500 feet below the surface. Down there, the pressure is about 400 times greater than at sea level.
However, any damage or defect to the Titan’s hull could result in a leak which would trigger the vessel to immediately implode under those extreme pressures, HITC reported.
“If the pressure vessel has failed catastrophically, it’s like a small bomb going off. The potential is that all the safety devices might be destroyed in the process,” Stefan Williams, a professor of marine robotics at the University of Sydney, told The Guardian.
Rescue efforts have been ongoing since the submersible lost contact with the surface on Sunday. It was feared that the five passengers on board were trapped alive in the 21-foot-long vessel.
However, the news of the debris and the likely implosion suggests that the passengers probably did not suffer for long. “If that’s what happened, that’s what would have happened four days ago,” Guillermo Söhnlein, one of the founders of OceanGate, told the BBC.
Moreover, the implosion would have been almost instantaneous, lasting only milliseconds, according to the Journal of Physics: Conference Series. Something similar happened in 1961 to the USS Thresher, a submarine thought to have imploded.
The catastrophic event would have pulled the metal vessel apart “like taffy,” according to the Naval History Magazine. “Complete destruction would occur in 1/20th of a second, too fast to be cognitively recognized by the men within the submarine.”
An implosion is basically the opposite of an explosion. Instead of pressure from within moving outward, pressure from outside is rushing in. Similar to an explosion, there is unlikely to be much left of the vessel and its cargo.
“I know it’s no great comfort to the families and the spouses, but they did die instantaneously. They were not even aware that anything was wrong,” the journalist David Pogue told CNN.