OceanGate Expeditions, the owner of the missing submersible, is a privately owned company headquartered in Everett, Wash., that, since its founding in 2009, has focused on increasing access to deep-ocean exploration.
The company has made headlines in recent years for organizing expeditions for paying tourists to travel in submersibles to shipwrecks, including the Titanic, and to underwater canyons. According to the company’s website, OceanGate also provides crewed submersibles for commercial projects and scientific research.
“Our team of qualified pilots, expedition leaders, mission professionals and client-service staff ensure accountability throughout the entire mission and expedition process with a focus on safety, proactive communication and client satisfaction,” the website reads.
OceanGate was founded by Stockton Rush, an aerospace engineer and pilot, who currently serves as its chief executive officer.
At just 19 years old, in 1981, Mr. Rush became the youngest jet transport rated pilot in the world, and obtained a degree in aerospace engineering from Princeton University three years later, according to the OceanGate website. He later earned an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989.
OceanGate currently owns and operates three five-person submersibles.
The first submersible acquired by OceanGate, Antipodes, could travel to a depth of 1,000 feet.
In 2012, the company acquired another submersible, and rebuilt it into Cyclops 1, a vessel that could travel to a depth of up to 1,640 feet. It served as a prototype for the newest submersible, the Titan. That vessel, made of carbon fiber and titanium, is engineered to reach depths of more than 13,000 feet, or more than two miles. The Titan, which has been used to explore the Titanic’s wreckage, is now missing.
OceanGate has provided tours of the Titanic since 2021, in which guests have paid up to $250,000 to travel to the wreckage, which lies about 12,500 feet below the ocean’s surface.
Last year, Mr. Rush described the business to CBS News as “very unusual,” providing “a new type of travel.”
The company first planned a voyage to the Titanic in 2018, according to the technology news site GeekWire, but the Titan sustained damage to its electronics from lightning. Then, in 2019, the voyage was postponed again because of a problem with complying with Canadian maritime law limitations on foreign flag vessels, according to GeekWire.
Before the first successful trip to the Titanic in 2021, the Titan was “rebuilt,” according to GeekWire, after tests showed signs of “cyclic fatigue” that reduced the hull’s depth rating to 3,000 meters.
In 2020, OceanGate announced that it was working with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to assure that the submersible was strong enough to survive in the ocean’s depths.
According to the company’s website, OceanGate has successfully completed more than 14 expeditions and more than 200 dives in the Pacific, Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
OceanGate’s board members include Mr. Rush, along with a physician and astronaut, a software consultant, a retired U.S. Coast Guard, and a C.E.O. of an investment advisory firm.
In addition to OceanGate, Mr. Rush is also a co-founder and member of the board of trustees of OceanGate Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2012 which aims to “fuel underwater discoveries in nautical archaeology, marine sciences and subsea technology” through public outreach and financial support.
The nonprofit’s website features OceanGate’s Titanic expedition, along with other global exploration expeditions.