Over the weekend, five men went to see the Titanic in a craft with almost the same name.
The five never came back.
There was an engineer who, in retrospect, seems to have been homicidally reckless with his engineering. There was a scientist who doesn’t seem to have known how to make calculated risks. There were two billionaires who paid six figures to go on a thrilling underwater trip. One of the billionaires brought his son, who didn’t want to come along. They were not “explorers.” They weren’t braving uncharted territory to increase human knowledge. The wreck of the Titanic has been carefully explored before, usually by robots operated by remote control, and can be at any time. People have made that dive as well, in sturdier pods, for scientific purposes or just to gawk at the wreck. These men were just tourists seeking a thrill: all but the teenager, who came to please his father.
These thrill-seeking tourists took off their shoes, and they crawled into a pod about the size of a mini van. The submersible was widely believed to be unable to withstand the pressure of a dive to that depth. They had been warned, but they did it anyway. The submersible went down under the water. There was an ominous noise. And then they lost contact with the rest of the human race.
Everyone knew, at some level, that the sub had imploded instantly when they dove too deep.
That was almost certainly the case. But there was always the chance that it hadn’t. There was a chance that it had sprung a small leak and the passengers all died of hypothermia in the near-freezing water. Or maybe they were still alive and conscious, slowly suffocating in a tomb of their own making. So the Coast Guard diligently searched for days, and that’s not wrong. We should search for people and try to rescue them if there’s the slightest chance they’re still alive. But the news media took the chance and ran with it. The news came out with story after lurid story, pointless speculation, recordings of banging at the bottom of the sea; somebody even had a ticker going on the side of the page, counting down the minutes of oxygen they might have had left. Of course, we didn’t know that they had that much oxygen left. The rate it was consumed would vary, based on whether they stayed calm and whether they were all alive to the last minute. Dead bodies, I’m told, use more oxygen than living ones, because of the decomposition. There was no point to any of this, except to horrify the viewing audience. The men were dead.
Hours after the last possible minute the deep sea tourists could have lasted in the best case scenario, almost as if they were waiting for the media to run out of suspense to peddle, the Coast Guard found the wreckage.
As we all knew, the vessel had imploded, killing its passengers instantly. They wouldn’t have even had time to realize what was happening, which is a mercy. One minute they were taking a ride in an unseaworthy can of air, and then they were nothing at all.
The wreck of the Titanic itself, or rather crass recklessness of not having nearly enough lifeboats onboard the Titanic, claimed 1500 lives. There is nothing fun or entertaining about that disaster. It’s a tragedy, and a testimony to human stupidity. The fact that it’s become a tourist attraction for the wealthy is obscene.
The wreck of the Titan, brought about by the hubris of four reckless men, claimed five more lives over the weekend.
I can’t imagine a more pointless, ugly, hubristic way to die.
Wealthy, careless people seeking a thrill got themselves killed and killed a teenager as well. The whole world watched in pointless suspense. We were all tortured for a billionaire’s joyride. Nothing was learned, no fun was had, nobody benefitted, and now they are gone.
Meanwhile, hundreds of desperate refugees drowned off the coast of Greece. Victims of ecocide in Ukraine suffer from terrible flooding. Their deaths weren’t quick like the Titan’s passengers’ deaths, and there was and will be a great deal of suffering all around. But their stories aren’t a media sensation. Their stories are ordinary news.
The world is a cold and deeply unjust place, and humans who can afford to make a change seem determined to make that worse.
May God have mercy on all the dead.
May He have mercy on us living as well.
Let’s try to make it a better world.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy