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About Submersible vs Submarine


The Titan, the vessel that went missing in the area of the Titanic wreck in the North Atlantic, is classified as a submersible, not a submarine,


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Submersibles?
  2. The Titan submersible
  3. How are Submersibles different from Submarines?

What are Submersibles?

Submersibles are specialized watercraft designed for specific missions in underwater environments. Here are the key points about submersibles:


  • Submersibles are small watercraft designed with specific characteristics to operate in underwater environments.
  • They are typically limited in range and built for a set mission or purpose.

Operating Features:

  • Submersibles have the capability to be fully submerged in water.
  • They are equipped with their own power supply and air renewal system to sustain operations underwater.
  • Some submersibles are remotely-operated, functioning as manually controlled or programmed robots.
  • There are also submersibles designed for human occupancy, known as human-occupied vehicles.
    • The Titan is one of the human-occupied vehicles.

Mission and Usage:

  • Submersibles are used for various purposes, such as scientific research, exploration, deep-sea observation, underwater archaeology, and marine resource surveys.
  • They allow scientists and researchers to explore underwater environments and study marine life, geological formations, and underwater ecosystems.
  • Submersibles are also utilized in underwater search and recovery missions, oil and gas exploration, and military applications.


  • Submersibles come in different sizes and designs depending on their specific mission requirements.
  • Some submersibles are compact and designed for shallow-water operations, while others are larger and capable of exploring deeper depths in the ocean.

The Titan submersible

The Titan is a submersible designed for exploring the Titanic shipwreck at depths of around 4,000m. Here are the key details about the Titan:

Design and Specifications:

  • The Titan is constructed using titanium and carbon fiber materials.
  • It has a weight of approximately 10,432 kg.
  • The submersible is capable of reaching speeds of about 3 knots (5.5 km per hour).

Mission and Capabilities:

  • The primary purpose of the Titan is to transport five people to explore the Titanic shipwreck.
  • It is specifically designed to operate in the vicinity of the wreck and return to the surface.
  • The Titan does not have extensive propulsion capabilities, limiting its ability to travel long distances.

Safety Mechanism:

  • In the event of a power or communication failure with its mother ship, the Polar Prince, experts believe that the Titan’s safety mechanism would activate.
  • This mechanism would cause the submersible to release the weight it used for descending to the shipwreck.

Location of the Titanic:

  • The Titanic shipwreck is located approximately 370 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada.

 How are Submersibles different from Submarines?

Submersibles and submarines differ in several key aspects. Here are the main differences between the two:

Launch and Retrieval:
  • Submersibles are launched from a mother vessel or home vessel, typically on a raft or platform. They descend into the water using electric thrusters and are retrieved back onto the surface platform after completing their mission.
  • Submarines, on the other hand, are self-propelled and can submerge and surface independently without the need for a separate launch and retrieval system.
Propulsion and Power:
  • Submersibles generally have limited propulsion systems and power reserves. They rely on electric thrusters for movement, and their power supply is typically constrained due to their smaller size and mission-specific design.
  • Submarines, on the other hand, are equipped with powerful propulsion systems, often driven by nuclear or diesel-electric engines, allowing them to travel long distances and at higher speeds underwater.
Features and Equipment:
  • Submersibles are designed for specific missions and often have a viewport or external cameras to observe the surrounding environment. This allows occupants to directly view the outside space.
  • Submarines, on the other hand, have periscopes and advanced sonar systems for observing and navigating the underwater environment. They are typically equipped with sophisticated communication systems and various defense mechanisms.
Ballast Systems:
  • Submersibles usually do not have ballast systems, which are used to control buoyancy and depth in submarines. They rely on their design and thrusters for depth control.
  • Submarines employ ballast systems to adjust their buoyancy and submerge or surface as needed.

Overall, submersibles are smaller, limited-range vessels that are launched from a mother vessel, have limited power reserves, and often serve specific missions. Submarines, on the other hand, are larger, self-propelled submarines capable of independent navigation and extended underwater operations, with more advanced features and capabilities.

-Source: Indian express

February 2024