Heading High and Diving Deep: The Human Quest for Exploration and the Fate of the Submersible “Titan”


The submersible meant to explore Titanic wreckage suffered a “catastrophic implosion.”




The news this afternoon about the submersible, “Titan,” is what was feared in the riveting media coverage over the last few days. A “catastrophic implosion” with debris scattered on the sea’s bottom was reported by CNN.1 Hopefully, the end for the 5 passengers was immediate and without suffering, faster than a lightbulb switched off. They are presumed to have died doing what they loved and believed in, signing multiple waivers for potential death. However, it is another failure connected to the tragic sinking of the Titanic ship.

Most likely, there will be a major grieving process for the loved ones that will ripple out to concerned citizens. There will be, and already is, analysis of the failure and what could have been prevented. However, I do not believe there is any “black box” containing information.

Innovation coupled with risk goes back through human history. It is part of our human nature. Recently, for my Father’s Day column, I discussed Daedalus, the Greek mythical father of Icarus. As the story goes, Daedalus created wings for his son and himself and, when ready to fly, warned Icarus not to fly too high as the sun would melt the wax and cause the wings to fall apart, dooming the flight. Icarus got carried away and did fly too close, drowning in the Aegean Sea. The first flights of the Wright brothers crashed, but they and others persisted and succeeded to the degree that we could land on the moon.

Eerily enough, there was a father and son among Titan’s passengers. The family has said that the father was interested in “exploring different natural habitats” and the 19-year-old son was a big science fiction lover.

So far, the human history of exploration risks must have had many more successes than failures. Humans have climbed the highest mountains, searched some of the deepest seas, and flown to the moon, despite some dying in the process. Microparticles were harnessed to produce atomic bombs and atomic energy, despite the anguish of doing so, as will be conveyed in a new movie about Oppenheimer. Psychedelic substances have been tried and used throughout history to explore our inner mind, too, despite some becoming psychotic and some dying. They are being explored once again by the public as well as in careful research studies to help treat significant mental illness and to possibly reliably produce a sense of cosmic connection.

Motivations vary, from thrill seeking to narcissistic confidence, to self-destructive tendencies, and to idealistic dreams. The challenge is to explore wisely and with beneficial goals in mind for humanity—not in the way I did in my teenage years, enough to be voted the one-time high school award of “most accident prone.”

Is just seeing the submerged Titanic with your own eyes enough, as it has been for many? The CEO of the parent company that made the Titan apparently thought that the ocean, not space, is the key to human survival. Time may prove him right.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.


1. Levenson E, Alvarez P, Cohen G, Salahieh N. Titanic-bound submersible suffered ‘catastrophic implosion,’ killing all 5 on board, US Coast Guard says. CNN. Updated June 22, 2023. Accessed June 22, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2023/06/22/us/submersible-titanic-oceangate-search-thursday/index.html

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