Alabama professor shares why people are so fascinated with ocean exploration

It’s a done deal: The five passengers who boarded a 22-foot submersible vessel last week expecting a firsthand look at the Titanic were killed hours after launch and nearly a week before their deaths were announced.

But why did OceanGate founder Stockton Rush build the Titan and charge $250,000 a seat to come along as the submersible descended miles under the ocean’s surface into the cold, dark depths? And why were there so many takers?

University of Alabama geology professor Fred Andrus said that’s just in the nature of us as humans.

“I think people are just drawn to it because of the mystery,” Andrus said. “We don’t know much about the sea floor and you often hear the cliche that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do the bottom of the ocean. That’s true. The water makes it very difficult to measure even simple things.”

Andrus said he’s not immune from that allure, and he’s made a trip deep into the ocean, too.

“We were below where the light went and most of what we did down there was explore and retrieve experiments and collect samples,” he said. “It’s difficult to relate to what you might see in the shallow ocean. The organisms are strange, everything about the environment is sort of hostile. The great pressure is your greatest fear.”

Andrus said his expedition underwater was one of the most life changing experiences he’s had. That said, remote exploration devices that don’t require a human pilot are much safer and cheaper to operate, he said.

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