The Questionable Engineering of Oceangate

The Questionable Engineering of Oceangate

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Writer/Narrator: Brian McManus
Editor: Dylan Hennessy
Animator: Mike Ridolfi
Animator: Eli Prenten
Sound: Graham Haerther
Thumbnail: Simon Buckmaster

Select imagery/video supplied by Getty Images
Thank you to AP Archive for access to their archival footage.

Music by Epidemic Sound:

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53 Responses

  1. Random Dud3 says:

    Man, you can feel the anger Real Engineering has against ocean gate incompetence, considering his thesis was on Composite materials

    • Gordon says:

      This is why I waited for Real Engineering to cover it and haven’t bothered with anyone else’s videos. I knew I could trust him.

    • kylek29 says:

      He’s exactly the type of guy Stockton Rush would have loved to fire … there’s no time for these nerd calculations, we’ve got a Titanic to see!


    • Molten Mozzarella says:

      stockton should have hired a pilot then he’d still be alive and could build more subs each a little thicker until he got it right

    • Lenore Van Alstine says:

      not incompetence criminal negligence and total disregard for safety

    • Tariq Raheem says:

      Even more particular than that his thesis was in composite material failure properties.

  2. Plasmaburndeath says:

    I still can’t believe they made the hull in an open air area, no vacuum, no one even wearing masks. This is madness.

    • Chase Carter says:

      This is Oceangate! Lol

    • Rob Parkin says:

      Watching them apply the glue by hand and then just drop the titanium ring on was kind blowing to me, I make more effort to keep projects clean in my own garage.

    • xiaoka says:

      All of those air bubbles and dust particles are delaminations waiting to start.

    • Woolleyyy says:

      Pardon my arrogance, but why does the hull need to made in a sterile error? To eliminate fod risks etc.?

    • ViperdragZ says:

      @Woolleyyy for carbon fiber, its a bunch of carbon fiber strands essentially glued/laminated together. If there are gaps or air bubbles in it, it greatly decreases strength and makes it much more vulnerable, from what I know.

  3. SenorChivo says:

    To be fair, “move fast and break things” was a software engineering motto, formulated at a non-critical social media company, that was co-opted by other engineers, sometimes working in critical software or hardware applications. It’s a perfectly adequate way of doing low-risk engineering. It’s not how you would engineer self-driving cars, or, I don’t know, maybe a commercial submarine.

    • Interdimensional says:

      People have died from “Full self driving” cars as well. Fraudulent misrepresentation

    • James Burtton says:

      The comparison to SpaceX is interesting. SpaceX performed hundreds of flights of Falcon 9 before they put a human on the thing. They also had to go through an extensive human rating programme, to ensure it was as safe as could be reasonably expected of a vehicle filled with hundreds of tonnes of highly reactive propellant being shot into space. OceanGate performed a few test dives and, as Brian states, minimal checks by independent individuals. It was also operating in an environment that is arguably more challenging than space. This needs to be a wakeup call that “move fast and break things” is not a suitable design model when failure of the object could lead to the loss of human lives.

    • Brian Smith says:

      Fast iteration works best on any project when failures are low-impact. You absolutely do not apply that with avionics controls or medical equipment, for example. Fast failures are great when you learn fast but don’t hurt anyone. Armadillo Aerospace (John Carmack software engineer), Tesla/SpaceX (Elon Musk), and many others were perfectly willing to risk equipment to learn but not lives. That’s the right approach.

    • smithydll says:

      @James Burtton Falcon was classed for human spaceflight before humans flew on it. The move fast and break stuff applies to the development testing phase, to discover the unknown unknowns and progress the design faster by increasing the understanding of the materials and systems. Destructive testing is a legitimate engineering tool. What OceanGate did was essentially put their development test vehicle into production without understanding the risks.

    • Keegan Owsley says:

      ​@InterdimensionalPeople have died from autonomous vehicles, but no one has died from Tesla’s Full Self Driving, yet. Most news reports confuse autopilot with FSD.

  4. Katie Mackey says:

    I remember a friend studying engineering in college told me his professor said he was so strict about them making mathematical errors on exams because, “engineering errors lead to injuries and death. You need to take responsibility that a mistake could be deadly.”

    • jonsen2k says:

      That’s exactly why we do have independent entities and engineers check our work, to confirm that we’ve not made silly mistakes or overlooked something crucial.
      Errors are inevitable but as long as convention and regulation is followed, you’re at least doing your best and using the knowledge and experience gained from past mistakes.

      F***ing hate it when cowboys come in and think that they know better…

    • Carl Holland says:

      they dont take responsibility, thats what lawyers and insurance is for

    • jonsen2k says:

      @Carl Holland Technically, yes. You shouldn’t be held personally responsible for any and all mistakes as long as they are not simply rooted in negligence. And this applies for many professions. But… If you’re in an job, working on something where lives might be at risk and you feel no responsibility what so ever, you’re in the wrong field.

      And, when I say “you”, it’s not you as in “you, carlholland3819”, but you as in anyone in such professions.

    • yohiyoyo1 says:

      Regardless of lawyers and insurance,, engineers get put in jail for manslaughter for negligence.

    • redneckhippiefreak says:

      Being weak at higher math I decided to get into the Architecture rather than the Engineering. I simply design Flighted Fantasy, the Engineers have the important task of making it a Reliable Reality.

  5. Alexandre Vachez says:

    This remembers me of the story of Roger Boisjoly, the engineer who warned NASA and his company (Morton Thiokol) that Challenger was going to explode. He was sadly ignored because of the huge public interest in the mission, given the fact that Christa McAuliffe was on board.

    • Praise The Sun says:

      Safety is secondary to the power of public relations(propaganda)

    • MissTrillium says:

      ​@Praisethesunson as someone who studied Public Relations, this is often how PR is treated by companies. They don’t see us as a tool to spread good, but shut down the bad. Personally, that kind of PR is antithetical to my personal practice (although I’m not an official PR rep, I work in the comms industry). Regardless of which field/industry, we should never sacrifice our morals for money

    • xponen_ says:

      @MissTrillium I’ve seen trailers & teasers for war in Ukraine.

    • Mouse Scarbrow says:

      *reminds me

    • Zahimi Ibrahim says:

      Not forgetting the saga of Boeing’s 737 Max where safety concerns raised by engineers and test pilots were minimised and swept under the rug by senior management.

  6. David Pretorius says:

    For an egoist, “move fast and break things” means lax safety. For a rational person, it means you’re going to destructive testing until you know the limits of what you’re doing… If failure is always an option, failsafes are never optional

    • Alex C says:

      “move fast and break things” makes sense when you are making Twitter. It even makes sense when you are making a coffee machine for a submarine, or a science experiment for a submarine, or even an unmanned submarine (ROV). It doesn’t make sense when you are making a manned submarine hull.

    • Keegan Owsley says:

      It’s no accident that SpaceX has applied this successfully without killing anyone. “Move fast and break things” is how you iterate quickly when still in the tech dev phase. SpaceX didn’t put humans on Falcon 9 until it had been flying for years, and was on Block V, which had never experienced any kind of failure when flying non-human payloads.

    • RMFX says:

      Move fast and break things was never supposed to mean “dive deep and implode things on paying customers.”

    • Bruno Trecenti says:

      ​@Keegan Owsley SpaceX applied this “successfully” until now, just because they haven’t had any failure it doesn’t mean they are following safety and regulatory procedures.

      Iterating fast and breaking things that can put lives at risk, is at least morally questionable even when safety procedures are followed. SpaceX had only a few manned missions, they’ve had many unmanned missions that failed, a failure involving human lives will eventually happen and it will be a similar story to Oceangate, unfortunately.

    • giaiaspirit says:

      If spaceX applies the same rationale bad oceangate, they would be putting people on starship now and starting manned mission already. If that sounds absurd, yeah… oceangate’s Titan sounds that absurd to me

  7. Syauqi lintang7 says:

    i love how the usual “insane engineering” video title was replaced with “questionable engineering” and i would’ve love it if this was turned into a series,

    like we had too many videos about good engineering lets shake things up a bit and take a look at the even-more questionable engineering of certain things.

    • logion567 says:

      I second this motion!

    • Mark Funderburk says:


    • Joseph Percente says:

      You mean like Fukushima engineering, where a country who invented the word tsunami put a nuclear power plant ocean side, great idea! Even better let’s put the back up systems in the basement! Bet the guy got a big bonus for that.

    • j.oz says:

      Or just call it “insane engineering,” since it’s still insane but in a different way.

    • youtuber says:

      On Wikipedia’s page on the 1963 Thresher sub disaster, an authority is quoted as saying:
      – I think it is important that we re-evaluate our present practices where, in the desire to make advancements, we may have forsaken the fundamentals of good engineering.

  8. Clancy James says:

    I’m so happy you got to use your Masters thesis in this topic! Bet it was hard for you not to make this a ten-hour video though, discussing all the fine details of void propagation etc…

  9. Will S says:

    Oceangate’s brochure answering the question “why wasn’t it classed?” has completely backwards logic. It said that certifications were bad because they don’t protect against operator error and most marine accidents are due to that operator error. No…. the reason most accidents are due to operator error is that certification weeds out all of the terrible designs! If it weren’t for that process we’d probably have way more Oceangate type accidents.

  10. Riley Mannion says:

    I am not trained in composites at all, but the second that i heard the first hand account of people who had been in the submarine saying that you could hear popping and banging noises as you went down and as you went up i knew exactly the failure mode, those sounds were without a doubt the layers delaminating from eachother

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