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  • Writer's pictureTravelin' Tim

Travel, Risk & That Submersible

Let's talk about that submersible, shall we?

The story of the five men on board the OceanGate Titan submersible that went missing on its way to the wreckage of the Titanic, and the subsequent search for it, gripped the world for a few days as searchers from several countries tried to locate it. As it turns out, it imploded on the way down, a drastic, but at least painless, way to go (at least compared to slow asphyxiation).

What got me about this story was not the trip, or the search, or the tragic outcome... it was the incredibly cruel and heartless comments about it on social media and in the comments sections of news websites.

They boiled down to several topics:

1) It was a rich man's folly 2) It was a stupid risk to take 3) They shouldn't have been poking around the Titanic wreckage anyway

4) Nations should not have spent tax money looking for it

5) The media shouldn't have covered it so extensively

There was also a few comments about how it all a hoax designed to cover up the Hunter Biden story, but that one is so ridiculously stupid we won't talk about that here.

So let's go:

1) It was a rich man's folly.

OK, maybe. But compared to how much most of the world lives, isn't spending $1,000 for a flight to Asia a 'rich man's folly'? Isn't spending money on a $200/night hotel room a 'rich man's folly'?Clearly, if I had a spare $250,000 lying around, I could think of a lot of ways I'd spend it other than looking at a shipwreck, but percentage wise, $250,000 to someone who has six million in the bank is the same as someone with $60,000 spending $2,500. Expensive, yes, but not incredibly out of the ordinary.

And yes, that money would have been better spent feeding the hungry or housing the homeless, but without knowing the charitable giving habits of the victims, it's not for me to judge them.

2) It was a stupid risk to take.

Yeah, so is mountain climbing. So is bungee jumping. So is helicopter skiing or hot air balloon riding or taking a bicycle rickshaw through the crowded streets of Varanasi (I've done those last two).

There's risk associated with literally everything we do in life, and some people have a greater tolerance for it than others. We each get to decide the level we're willing to accept. Now, had they known how 'not safe' the Titan was for its journey, I think most would have backed out. But that's on OceanGate, not on the victims.

A quick story: When I was in Nepal last November, a few of us on the tour opted to take a quick flight between Pokhara and Kathmandu on Yeti Airlines rather than take the long and bumpy road trip between them. Here's a picture of us in the boarding process:

The flight was quick, easy and uneventful. But a little more than two months later, this very plane would be lying in a gully outside of Pokhara, and 72 people would be dead.

As it turns out, Yeti Airlines has a very spotty safety record. I didn't know that, and I doubt any of my fellow travelers knew it either. If I had, I probably would have opted for the bumpy bus ride.

It just goes to show, sometimes you don't know how much of a risk you're taking.

3) They shouldn't have been poking around the Titanic wreckage anyway

The wreckage of the Titanic is the scene of an unspeakable tragedy, and a graveyard for 1,500 lost souls.

But more people died at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and I've been there. More people died at Hiroshima, and I've been there. And in each somber place, I feel like I've learned something, whether it be the absolute depths humanity can sink to when ruled by hatred, or a devastating power of a weapon that should never be used again.

Perhaps seeing the wreckage of the Titanic would teach us something about human hubris when it comes to overcoming nature. Ironically, a lesson the makers and marketers at OceanGate should have learned.

Ask yourself this question: if it were cheaper (say, $200) and safer (like a bungee jump). Would you want to see it? I honestly can't say that I wouldn't.

4) Nations should not have spent tax money looking for it

Gosh, I hate to tell you this, but the U.S. Coast Guard (and I'm assuming the Canadian Coast Guard as well) rescues people. Whether they're rich or poor, whether they are seafaring experts or have no business being in the open ocean. That's what they do.

If you wanna be the one to draw the line between who lives and dies, be my guest. But I ain't gonna do it.

5) The media shouldn't have covered it so extensively

I'll give you this one.

A week before the Titan went missing, as many as 700 migrants drowned in the Ionian Sea when an overcrowded fishing boat capsized on its way from Libya to Europe.

It was covered by most of the media, but not nearly to the extent that the search for the Titan drew.

But in today's environment, the media does what gets it viewers and clicks, because that's how they survive.

You want better news coverage? Stop clicking on the sensationalistic crap. The media would change course within a year.

The bottom line is, whether this was a 'rich man's joyride' or a ghoulish look at an underwater graveyard or stupid risk taking, five people are dead. Five people with families and friends, with hopes and dreams. How rich they were or were not should not matter.

As an old Italian proverb so wisely put it, "At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box."

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