What to know about OceanGate, the company behind the missing Titanic submersible

The company's founder and CEO is among the passengers on the missing vessel.

June 22, 2023, 11:43 AM

Eager to test a submersible one month before its first trip to the deep-sea ruins of the Titanic, in the spring of 2018, OceanGate hit a snag: lightning storms and harsh winds that battered the Bahamas for weeks and rendered the test impossible, according to the company's blog.

OceanGate canceled the initial Titanic voyage, pushing it back to the following year, the company said.

"While we are disappointed by the need to reschedule the expedition, we are not willing to shortcut the testing process due to a condensed timeline," the company said. "We are 100% committed to safety."

Five years after that called-off test, OceanGate has drawn international attention as rescue vessels search for the same submersible, called Titan, which went missing during the company's latest trip to the famous shipwrecked ruins. The craft has five passengers on board, among them the company's founder and CEO, Stockton Rush.

The oxygen in the submersible was set to run out on Thursday morning. OceanGate did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

OceanGate, founded in 2009, offers tourists the opportunity to travel on submersibles into the ocean's depths for a closeup look at shipwrecks and underwater canyons. A spot on one of the trips can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Decades earlier, in the 1980s, Rush became the world's youngest jet transport rated pilot, at age 19, the OceanGate website says. In the ensuing years, he earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from Princeton University and an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

Rush said he launched OceanGate after an epiphany that the deep sea offered a sense of discovery he once thought only attainable for astronauts, according to an instructional video taped in collaboration with the nonprofit EarthEcho International in 2020.

"I had a realization in my early 40s that what I really wanted to be was an explorer," Rush said. "All those things that I thought were in space were actually in the ocean."

PHOTO: FILE - Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate exhibitions, poses at Times Square in New York, April 12, 2017.
Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate exhibitions, poses at Times Square in New York, April 12, 2017.
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters, FILE

Seeking investment, OceanGate raised nearly $500,000 in 2014 and $19.3 million in 2020, government filings show.

The company ultimately assembled a fleet of three five-person submersibles named Antipodes, Cyclops 1, and most recently, Titan.

OceanGate, based in Everett, Washington, has conducted over 14 expeditions and more than 200 dives across the Pacific, Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, according to the company's website.

The trip to the ruins of the Titanic lasts eight days, launching from St. John's Newfoundland, Canada, and traveling 380 miles offshore and 3,800 meters below the surface of the ocean, according to the company's website.

The journey does not require previous diving experience but passengers must be at least 17 years old, the website says. The trip costs $250,000 per passenger.

The company's description of the trip online offers passengers an experience like the one that Rush said he sought when launching OceanGate.

"Become an underwater explorer," says a company web page that details the Titanic voyage.

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