OceanGate: What Do Humans Eat 4000m Below Sea Level?

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What Happened to the OceanGate Vessel?

OceanGate, a leading provider of manned submersible solutions, recently made headlines with its disastrous deep-sea exploration mission on the Titan Submarine. Spearheading this unfortunate voyage were CEO Stockton Rush and investor Shahzada Dawood, who shared a common mission to unlock the mysteries of the ocean depths and explore the sunken Titanic.

Under the misguided leadership of CEO Stockton Rush, OceanGate developed Titan Submarine. Allegedly it was Rush’s careless approach with regards to safety and precision engineering lead to the breach in the hull that caused the vessel’s implosion. Shahzada Dawood, an investor and passionate advocate for deep-sea exploration was dedicated to advancing oceanic research as well. His financial support had been pivotal in making the Titan Submarine a reality.

What Did the Titan Submarine Pack for Food?

The ship is estimated to have imploded at 3500m below sea level, where the titanic sits at about 4000m deep (roughly 1300 feet). It only took the vessel one and half hours to get to that depth. The vessel provided a small toilet with a curtain but hardly has room for anything else. Even though the trip was meant to last less than a day, it had enough oxygen to last four. They might not have needed to bring food with them but there is a possibility that they packed a snack. The OceanGate website FAQ advises travelers to “…bring a sandwich for lunch. You’ll be given a dry bag about the size of a small backpack to carry your food, water, and extra warm layers of clothing”. 

These “Alvin Sandwiches” were then studies intently for weeks after their discovery.

During the 1971 Alvin expedition, it was discovered that food stored aboard the submersible experienced significantly slower spoilage compared to the surface. After recovering the sunken Alvin months after it’s incident, researchers found soup and sandwiches that were almost fully preserved. These “Alvin Sandwiches” were then studies intently for weeks after their discovery. The deep-sea environment, with its high pressure and low temperature, inhibited microbial activity, resulting in a spoilage rate estimated to be just 1 percent of that on the surface. This observation provides insights into the potential for preserving food in extreme environments. Interestingly, deep-sea carbon trapped at the ocean floor for over 10,000 years has been found to hinder microbial thriving, further supporting the idea of using deep-sea conditions for long-term food preservation. These findings have implications for space missions and other remote locations where food preservation is critical.

What are the Differences Between Space Food and Deep Sea Food?

While there are some similarities between deep-sea submarine cuisine and space food, there are also distinct differences. Space food is specifically formulated to withstand the unique challenges of microgravity, such as maintaining palatability and preventing food particles from floating away. Space agencies like NASA have developed a variety of food options, including freeze-dried meals, thermostabilized pouches, and rehydratable foods.

In contrast, deep-sea submariners have the advantage of operating in a gravity-enabled environment, allowing for a wider range of meal options. Fresh and frozen foods, including fruits, vegetables, and meats, can be stored and prepared on board submarines. However, the limited space and storage capabilities of submarines necessitate careful planning and packaging to ensure food remains safe and palatable throughout the expedition.

While both deep-sea submariners and astronauts require specially designed food solutions, the focus and challenges they face differ. Deep-sea submarine cuisine emphasizes freshness, nutrition, and taste while accounting for space limitations. Space food, on the other hand, prioritizes long shelf life, rehydration capabilities, and minimal packaging waste.

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