The Tragedy of the Titan Submersible

An Avoidable Accident

When I ignored a hairline crack in my rudder, it wasn't surprising that it snapped off while sailing when the weather kicked up. I should have known. But here's the thing, prior to the event, I didn't have experts looking over my shoulder, reinforcing the cautions of my inner voice, saying: "The core material used to build your rudder is susceptible to catastrophic failure. If you see a hairline crack, assume it goes all the way through."

Kinda like the warning Stockton Rush received about substituting steel with carbon fiber when he built the Titan submersible. Except, in his case, the clearly foreseeable consequence of a material/design/maintenance flaw was death. In my case, I foresaw possible inconvenience and a bit of fun adversity.

And then there's this reporting from Jenny Gross at NYT: "During a trip on board the Titan off the coast of the Bahamas in April 2019, Karl Stanley, an expert in submersibles, knew immediately that something was off: He heard a cracking noise that got only louder over the two hours it took for the submersible to plunge more than 12,000 feet."

Stockton Rush made bad decisions because of self-imposed and literal external pressures. Those decisions ended up killing him and others. That's the bottom line. We can acknowledge that he was a wonderful, interesting and inspiring guy. But he made bad calls.

I don't know if he had a little voice telling him he was making a mistake. But I'll bet he did.

My takeaway lesson from this tragedy is to reinforce what I already know. Listen to the inner voice and don't let external pressures silence it.

- Mike

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