In the wake of the recent 2023 Titan submersible tragedy, I am re-sharing (with minor revisions) this post originally penned in 2011. Loss of life is a tragedy under all circumstances – understanding context is critical to ensure humanity can continue to evolve…
When the weather breaks, those not diving year round, dust off their equipment, do some work up or proficiency dives, then continue with this crazy passion called diving.
Almost every summer diving season here in New England comes with some degree of tragedy. Among the pursuits of New England divers, and divers worldwide, is to visit the wreckage of the famous Andrea Doria – an Italian luxury liner that sunk in the 1950’s and now rests in over 200 feet of water in the deep, dark waters 60 miles offshore. To me, the wreck has been wrongfully idealized as the ‘Mt. Everest of diving’. There are far more technically challenging dives to do, and that serve a greater purpose than doing the dive ‘because you can’.
Herein lies the difference between ‘exploration‘ and ‘adventure’. Exploration is the pursuit of new knowledge, and often, though not always, requires venturing to a physical place that few, if any, have ventured to previously. The mindset behind this pursuit of knowledge is what sets the pursuit aside from ‘adventure’. Adventure is seeking a thrill…a predetermined effort to satisfy a personal need – to seek a rush or fulfill a conquest. This is often achieved by climbing a ladder – in some cases it’s climbed too fast (unknowingly) without having the deeply embedded reflexes that help with decision making when the top rung decides to break under your own weight.
Exploration on the other hand encourages and promotes a methodical approach to problem solving and comes with a justifiable need. Sure, explorers have accidents too, but I’d argue that sacrifice in the pursuit of improving our collective body of worldly knowledge, rather than fulfilling personal conquest is what will resonate and continue to reveal life lessons.
Bottom line is that the recent deaths remind us that we play in high risk pool…even in the shallows. The dive industry needs to step up its game across the board and not make it so easy for the adventurous, even at a price. Yes, we need #’s of people to achieve a critical mass that makes the underwater business work, but not at the expense of putting people at an increased risk. There is ample opportunity through the process of identifying and engineering out risk (exploration) to sustainably engage a community and advance a body of knowledge. Shouldering unnecessary and recognized risks to push a boundary or break a record is just wreckless.
I extend my condolences to the families and friends of those lost this week . They are victims of a failed system in need of reform.