The Titan Vessel and Piezophysiology

Titanic Resting Spot - The Titan Vessel and Piezophysiology

The recent tragedy with the Titan vessel imploding brings to mind the science of piezophysiology, the study of living organisms under high pressure. The connection between the Titan vessel and piezophysiology is that deep sea fish must survive under massive hydrostatic pressures such as the Titan was subjected to. How do they survive?

Building deep-sea vehicles has been an enormous challenge for engineers. The standard has been to build vessels of titanium in a spherical shape to equalize the water pressure all around. The Titan hull was made of carbon fiber five inches thick, and it was 22 feet long. The elongated shape increased the pressure load on the midsection. The vessel had been subjected to stress during about two-dozen previous dives. Each of those dives might have created small unnoticed cracks in the carbon fibers, like splitting wood along the grain. Those tiny cracks could lead to rapid and catastrophic failure.

Let’s do a little math to get some idea of the amount of water pressure. Water has a density of 62.4 pounds per cubic foot. One mile of water would be 5,280 feet. Each foot of water would put 62.4 pounds on any object one mile down. That would be 329,472 pounds on each square foot of a submarine or a fish. That is 164.7 tons in fresh water and even more in salt water, and the Titanic is about 2.4 miles down.

Water doesn’t freeze at that depth because pressure lowers the freezing point. Those who study piezophysiology tell us that fish living at those depths have flexible bones and cartilage, do not have swim bladders, have special blood adapted to deep-sea conditions, and have bioluminescence to compensate for the darkness of deep ocean environments.

We learn from the Titan vessel and piezophysiology that surviving deep under the ocean requires wise engineering. Humans have much to learn about the creatures of the deep, but the difficulty of visiting deep sea environments limits our knowledge. However, every discovery of piezophysiology and related fields speaks to God’s wisdom and design of life that allows those creatures to exist in a world that is forbidding for humans.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Oxford Academic,, and “How the unconventional design of the Titan sub may have destined it for disaster” in