The captain of the submersible craft that is currently missing on the North Atlantic ocean floor near the wreckage of the Titanic, who is also the CEO and founder of the ocean exploration company that owns it, has some deep ties to San Francisco and maybe grew up here.
The Titan submersible owned by OceanGate Expeditions, which at this point likely has less than a day's worth of oxygen left for its five passengers, remains missing, though on Tuesday night there was word from a Canadian aircraft that some underwater noises had been detected in the area. The craft lost contact with its ship on the surface on Sunday during what should have been a two-and-a-half-hour drop down to the Titanic wreckage site.
On Wednesday, the SF Chronicle picked up an old wedding announcement from the New York Times, from July 6, 1986, announcing the wedding of the man who would later found OceanGate, who has the very upper-crust name Stockton Rush — it's actually Richard Stockton Rush III. (Rush is still married to the same woman, Wendy Rush, who works with him at OceanGate.) The announcement notes that Rush is the grandson of the namesake of Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, Louise M. Davies — and the hall would have been just six years old at that point.
Mrs. Davies was the wife of Ralph K. Davies, who was an oil millionaire from the early days of Standard Oil, and became the chairman of American President Lines, a shipping company.
Mr. Davies died in 1971, and Mrs. Davies spent her latter years on philanthropy, including being the main donor to the symphony hall. As her 1998 obituary in the Times says, she "bestowed millions of dollars on many cultural, educational and medical charities in the Bay Area, including the Exploratorium, the World Affairs Council, the Conservatory of Music, the University of San Francisco, Stanford University and the San Francisco Opera."
She and her husband lived most of their lives in a "magnificent house," the Times notes, that they built in Woodside in 1940. And, amusingly, she was quoted in a 1990 interview, at age 90, responding to a question about why she gave the money to build Davies Symphony Hall. "Because I had the money, and we certainly needed the hall," she said. She added, "I'm just learning after all these years that I have quite a lot of money. Isn't that something?"
The 61-year-old Stockton Rush III, or Stockton Rush Jr. as he's been referred to elsewhere, attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, followed by Princeton University and UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, where he got an MBA in 1989.
Rush's father, Stockton Rush Sr., was a vice-president of the Bohemian Club, and died on New Year's Day in 2000 in San Francisco, and his funeral was held at Grace Cathedral. His mother appears to have died earlier, and a stepmother, Nancy Stewart Rush, is mentioned in the father's obituary. Rush's aunt, Maryon Davies Lewis, is a San Francisco society figure whose holiday party was mentioned in a 2011 Chronicle society column.
The younger Rush founded OceanGate Expeditions in 2009, focusing on deep-sea exploration, but they only began exploring the remains of the Titanic two years ago, in 2021. As he told the Associated Press at the time, "The ocean is taking this thing, and we need to document it before it all disappears or becomes unrecognizable."
The Titan submersible he is captaining is on just its third trip down to the wreckage of the Titanic. As Rush told CBS News in a November 2022 interview, this is a "new kind of travel," and one that costs $250,000 per head.
As the New York Times reports, OceanGate has been the subject of widespread concern among experts in ocean exploration that the company wasn't following industry-approved rules — a group of whom co-signed an open letter to Stockton Rush in 2018 expressing their "unanimous concern" about the company's operations. "The current experimental approach adopted by OceanGate could result in negative outcomes (from minor to catastrophic) that would have serious consequences for everyone in the industry," they wrote.
The experience onboard this vessel also sounds pretty miserable — with a quarter-million dollars getting you a seat on the floor of a mini-van-sized tube with just a window the size of a washing machine's to see a few bits of the Titanic.
A man who was on one of OceanGate's expeditions to the Titanic last summer, Oisin Fanning, tells the Times that how much oxygen the five onboard have left will largely depend on them all staying calm, and breathing calmly.
Per the Times, "The other four passengers are Hamish Harding, a British businessman and explorer; a British-Pakistani businessman, Shahzada Dawood, and his teenage son, Suleman; and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French maritime expert who has been on more than 35 dives to the Titanic wreck site."
Photo courtesy of OceanGate Expeditions