How I unwittingly steered OceanGate’s sub to discovery in Puget Sound’s depths

How I unwittingly steered OceanGate’s sub to discovery in Puget Sound’s depths

5:08am, 3rd September, 2019
POSSESSION SOUND, Wash. — Steering a five-person submersible is like playing a video game, except for the fact that you’re piloting a nine-ton piece of hardware at watery depths that are inaccessible to . I got my chance to play this week during a survey dive in a pocket of Puget Sound known as Possession Sound, courtesy of , a manufacturer and operator of submersibles that’s headquartered in Everett, Wash. During our three-hour tour, GeekWire photographer Kevin Lisota and I were taken around the sound at depths ranging as low as 350 feet, in OceanGate’s Cyclops submersible. We even played a supporting role in finding a colony of anemones in an unexpected underwater setting. The trip was part of a summertime expedition to get a better sense of the ecosystem on the bottom of Puget Sound, in collaboration with researchers from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If things had turned out differently, OceanGate would just now be wrapping up a series of submersible survey dives to the wreck of the Titanic in the North Atlantic. But , the company had to delay those trips until next year. That’s why OceanGate pivoted to the Puget Sound survey, and why Kevin and I found ourselves scrunched alongside marine biologist Tyler Coleman, pilot-in-training Mikayla Monroe and OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush on Tuesday. We began the morning with a safety briefing at the dock at Everett’s marina, led by Dan Scoville, OceanGate’s director of systems integration and marine operations. One of his bits of advice had to do with keeping calm if you hear thumps and bumps on Cyclops’ hull. “If you can hear it, you’re OK,” he said. If there’s a catastrophic collision and breach, you wouldn’t be around long enough to hear it. Then the Cyclops was towed out on its launch-and-recovery platform to Possession Sound by one of the boats in OceanGate’s fleet, the Kraken. A little more than an hour later, the Cyclops was in position, and we headed out to meet it on a faster boat, the Vito. Once we were dropped off on the floating platform, we handed up our backpacks, took our shoes off and climbed into Cyclops’ 5-foot-wide cabin. Mikayla sat on a mat toward the back, flanked by video screens that showed camera views and sonar readings. Stockton sat next to her, ready to give guidance. Tyler sat in the middle. Kevin and I had front-row seats, looking through Cyclops’ hemispherical acrylic viewing window. We let our stocking-clad feet rest on the window’s bottom, even though we were warned that we might feel the chill of the water on the other side. Once all the final checks were made, the crew members on the Vito, the Kraken, the platform and in the submersible took a five-minute timeout, known as a “stopski,” just to make completely sure all systems were go. (The idea — suggested by Scott Parazynski, a former NASA astronaut — was inspired by the built-in holds that are included in space launch countdowns.) Then it was time to dive. First the launch and recovery platform blew the compressed air out of its flotation tanks, in a process that had us dipping down backward into the water at a 20-degree angle. Green-tinted water sloshed wildly over our field of view. “Is this a freakout moment for some people?” I asked Stockton. “I haven’t run across that yet,” he replied. “You could be our first.” GeekWire’s Alan Boyle takes notes as he looks out the window of OceanGate’s Cyclops submersible. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Within minutes, we were sinking below the photic zone, where sunlight could penetrate to fuel the green plankton that tinted the waters. The view outside was total darkness, until Mikayla turned on the floodlights on each side of our window. Even then, plankton and the other particles floating in nutrient-rich Puget Sound cut the visibility to just a few feet around us. Mikayla relied on sonar readings to determine our depth, and on GPS readings to determine our heading. Our first destination was right beneath us: We headed for a wire cage containing a pile of salmon guts, which was dropped down on a line from a buoy to attract whatever creatures were foraging at the bottom. When we pulled up to the cage, we saw a smattering of rockfish (of the quillback and canary varieties), with 4-inch-long prawns and an occasional crab skittering through the scene, looking for a meal. The prime targets for OceanGate’s survey are shark species, and especially the rare, crowd-pleasing sixgill shark. We hoped to follow in the footsteps of Seattle rap musician Macklemore, who when he went looking for Puget Sound sixgills in a different Oceangate sub. We saw no sixgills, but we did catch sight of a slim, spiny dogflsh shark as it threaded its way around the bait box. “So we had our first official shark?” I asked Tyler. “Yup,” he said. Marine biologist Tyler Coleman identified this fish as a dogfish shark. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) Then we headed off to a wide stretch of muddy bottom, punctuated by holes that provided shelter for the prawns and other bottom-feeding critters. Stockton sidled over to me, holding the modified Sony PlayStation game controller that’s used to steer the sub. “Want to drive?” he said. It took me a while to get the hang of the controls: The front buttons serve as “dead man’s switches,” which have to be pressed in order to activate the controller’s dual joysticks. The left joystick controls the up and down thrusters, and the right joystick controls horizontal thrusters for forward and back, left and right. Simple, right? Nevertheless, I occasionally rose high enough to lose sight of the bottom, and sank low enough to plop the sub into the mud and send clouds of sediment rising up in front of our window. To get ourselves out of those obscuring clouds, I had to drive the sub out of the haze into clearer waters. At least there were no rocks to run into, which is why Stockton and Mikayla brought us to a field of mud before they handed me the controller. After a few minutes of meandering, Mikayla reported that there was something showing up on the sonar, about 15 meters dead ahead. Stockton took back the controller, and guided by Mikayla’s callouts, he brought us right up to what looked like a garden of cauliflowers, plunked in the middle of an underwater desert. It turned out that a tree stump had sunk 350 feet to the bottom, heaven knows how many years ago, and a colony of anemones had taken root there. Stockton was impressed, and he told Mikayla to take note of the coordinates. “The visibility is probably 10 feet today, but we can get 5 feet away, so that’s OK,” Stockton told me. “Imagine trying to find this if you were diving. … Nobody’s ever seen this log before, I’ll bet you even money.” Toward the end of the tour, we returned to the area where bait had been dropped to the bottom. Mikayla turned the lights off, waited for a school of rockfish to swim in front of our window, and then turned the lights back on so we could snap photos. When it was time to ascend, we rose through the dark murk and back into the sunlit green haze near the surface. Kevin and I were deputized to watch for the whitish outline of OceanGate’s launch-and-recovery platform, anchored a few meters below. It took a couple of tries to get properly “locked in” on the platform, due to a balky thruster. I was feeling grateful that Mikayla and Stockton were at the controls (and hoping I hadn’t damaged the thruster during my training session). At last we were locked in and lifted up. The sun seemed unusually bright as we climbed back up through the hatch and were motored back to shore. On the way back, Stockton talked about OceanGate’s plans to bring the submersible experience to a wider audience. “Diving’s no fun after you’ve been in a sub,” he said. Taking people down to the Titanic is still OceanGate’s prime objective: The submersible that’s designed for that role, which was initially called Cyclops II but is now known as Titan, proved it could safely get to Titanic-worthy depths this year . The postponement of the means there’s not a lot for Titan to do until next summer. It’s currently being prepped for an extra round of stress tests, plus equipment upgrades that should smooth the way for the 2020 season. OceanGate’s Titanic customers are paying to participate in the adventure as mission specialists, and most of them are keeping their reservations despite the delay. Stockton said that OceanGate’s subs — including Cyclops and Titan as well as the two-person Antipodes — are currently certified for research missions such as the Titanic expedition, but not for more casual tourist jaunts. Another perspective: Now OceanGate is seeking waivers from the Coast Guard that would allow the company to offer submersible tours for something like $1,000 or $2,000 per person. That’s more than operators in Hawaii charge for submarine tours, but those tours go only 100 feet beneath the surface and last only 45 minutes or so. OceanGate’s tourists would get an experience even more thrilling than ours — assuming that the regulatory go-ahead is given. “It’ll probably be six to 12 months before we get approval,” Stockton told me. Stockton and his team of 27 employees are also looking into whether their subs can be used for infrastructure inspection and environmental surveys. And they’re planning to build a bigger, better submersible called Cyclops III, which could handle depths of 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). To help fund those projects, OceanGate is in the midst of a that was reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission in April. So what’s tougher? Navigating the depths of Puget Sound, or negotiating the shoals of the startup world? , Stockton Rush is clearly adept at doing both. But personally, I’d rather be steering the sub. Correction for 4:36 p.m. PT Sept. 1: In a previous version of this report, we incorrectly identified a ratfish as a dogfish shark. We’ve amended the ID for the ratfish, and added a video screengrab of the dogfish. Woof! Also, we’ve corrected the anticipated cost of a submersible tour to be $1,000 to $2,000 per person, instead of per day.
Apple says Siri will no longer retain audio by default, one-upping Amazon and Google on privacy

Apple says Siri will no longer retain audio by default, one-upping Amazon and Google on privacy

5:08am, 3rd September, 2019
Photo by from Siri won’t be so sneaky about snooping anymore. That’s the gist of from Apple this morning. It’s a move that could pressure its fellow tech giants Amazon and Google to follow suit. Apple says it will no longer retain audio recordings of users interacting with its Siri voice assistant unless they opt in. And when they do, only Apple’s own employees, not contractors, will review the audio samples as part of the company’s efforts to monitor and improve the quality of Siri’s responses. The announcement follows assigning teams of people, in some cases contractors and not direct employees, to review audio clips of their users interacting with their voice assistants, unbeknownst to those users. The resulting outcry over the privacy invasions led each company to reconsider their policies. Both Apple and Google have put their practices of human review on hold pending reviews. by giving users the ability to opt out of voice recording and “manual review” of their interactions with its Alexa voice assistant, while still subtly discouraging users from taking that step by warning them that “voice recognition and new features may not work well” for them if they take that step. Apple, with this morning’s announcement, goes further by saying it will no longer retain audio recordings by default, instead requiring users to opt in if they want to participate. Here is Apple’s summary of the changes it’s planning to make. As a result of our review, we realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize. As we previously announced, we halted the Siri grading program. We plan to resume later this fall when software updates are released to our users — but only after making the following changes: First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve. Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time. Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri. Apple is committed to putting the customer at the center of everything we do, which includes protecting their privacy. We created Siri to help them get things done, faster and easier, without compromising their right to privacy. We are grateful to our users for their passion for Siri, and for pushing us to constantly improve. Apple suspended the program after that contractors reviewing Siri recordings for quality control regularly heard “confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex.”
Xbox Live is down for many (Update: It’s back up)

Xbox Live is down for many (Update: It’s back up)

5:09am, 3rd September, 2019
If you were trying to sneak in a quick game on Xbox Live during your Friday afternoon lunch break and found that you can’t get online: don’t worry, you’re not alone. While still says all things are good to go (Update: Microsoft’s status page has now caught up with the outage, and says that it’s impacting sign-ins, account creations and searches), reports are pouring in of an outage keeping many users from logging in. Microsoft acknowledged the problem on Twitter, saying that they’re “looking into it now.” Update, 2:30 PM: It’s back up! The status page shows all lights as green again, and a Microsoft spokesperson says that services have been fully restored. We're aware that some users are unable to sign in currently & our teams are looking into it now. We'll update when we have more info to share. Thanks for all the reports! — Xbox Support (@XboxSupport)
Waiting for Elizabeth Warren: Why breaking up big tech hasn’t become a big campaign issue

Waiting for Elizabeth Warren: Why breaking up big tech hasn’t become a big campaign issue

5:08am, 3rd September, 2019
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren appeared in Seattle on Sunday, a few blocks from Amazon’s headquarters, and given the Democratic presidential candidate’s call to break up the online retail giant as part of a larger crackdown on big tech companies, we were anticipating fireworks. It didn’t happen. In fact, , Warren didn’t specifically mention Amazon in her public remarks when commenting on the need for stronger antitrust enforcement. On this episode of the GeekWire Podcast, we tell the behind-the-scenes story of , outlasting the four-hour line of people who waited to take selfies with the candidate after her appearance. When we finally did speak with her, Warren pulled no punches in discussing Amazon. “I think it’s time to break ’em up — enforce the antitrust laws, and we’ve got to look at the antitrust laws in terms of the world we have today,” Warren said. She added, “This online platform really creates an opportunity that Amazon has taken advantage of and it’s hurt a lot of little tiny businesses and startup businesses and small businesses and medium size businesses that can’t compete with a giant like Amazon that is sucking information out of every transaction. Information is today’s comparative advantage and Amazon shouldn’t be able to suck it all up and then dominate every single marketplace in America.” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop) So why didn’t she take on Amazon directly in Amazon’s backyard? “I was here to talk about why I’m running for president. … I at least had the passing reference to the fact that we’ve got to break up the big companies. We’ve got to enforce our antitrust laws.” However, she added, there’s “a lot of stuff we’ve gotta do.” And that last comment explains a lot. found that a majority of Americans aren’t interested in tougher regulations for big tech companies. Although Amazon and big tech companies , there are a lot of topics on the minds of voters and candidates, as well-known open-source technology leader Miguel de Icaza pointed out in his reaction to our coverage of Warren’s appearance. Yes, just not the top issue. I wasn’t there but wouldn’t be surprised that she didn’t even hit half this (already outdated) list of top proposals. — Miguel de Icaza (@migueldeicaza) In the end, my only regret was that I didn’t think to take a selfie with Warren myself. Also on this episode, GeekWire’s Kurt Schlosser and Taylor Soper join me to discuss the new , what ; and, of course, the latest on .
Dark Mode coming to Microsoft Outlook on Android and iOS as part of broader rollout of popular feature

Dark Mode coming to Microsoft Outlook on Android and iOS as part of broader rollout of popular feature

5:08am, 3rd September, 2019
Dark Mode on iOS. (Microsoft Photo) Microsoft is doubling down on Dark Mode, bringing the popular option to switch from a white background to a black or grey one to more of its core services. The company says it plans to bring Dark Mode to its entire Microsoft 365 product suite — a combination of Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. The push begins with an initial rollout today of Dark Mode on Outlook for iOS and Android, as well as Office.com. When the latest update of iOS launches, Microsoft will roll out Dark Mode for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneDrive, Planner, and To-Do on mobile. The addition of Dark Mode across more of the company’s products is all about choice, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Research & Design Jon Friedman wrote in a blog post. “It’s an apt metaphor for why we love Dark Mode: human needs unfold across an equally broad spectrum,” Friedman wrote. “Whether you want to reduce eye strain, improve battery life, or it just has aesthetic appeal, Dark Mode exemplifies our ability to craft simple and powerful Microsoft 365 experiences that give you choice and flexibility.” Welcome to the dark side. in is here. Learn more: — Microsoft 365 (@Microsoft365) Microsoft says it first introduced darker backgrounds back in 2010. It has steadily added Dark Mode to more programs, including major services such as Windows 10, Edge and Office. Jon Friendman. (Microsoft Photo) Dark backgrounds have become popular in recent years, with tech giants promoting the mode as an of new releases. The black backgrounds often look sleeker, and experts have touted health benefits of the setting as well. It’s become common knowledge that . For people who put in late hours, using a dark background instead of a light one reduces the amount of blue light they’re exposed to, leading to a better sleep after work is done, , a partially-sighted computer scientist at Cambridge University in the U.K. There are disadvantages too. It can be tough to see the backgrounds in well-lit rooms or when light reflects off the screen. In the blog post, Microsoft’s Friedman pointed to the 24/7 nature of work and the spread of productivity tools to everyday life as reasons dark backgrounds have become popular. People aren’t just using Microsoft products on their desktop from 9 to 5 anymore. “Our tools are used to keep up to speed on everything from work communication, to personal events that include friends and family, to changes in shared documents,” Friedman wrote. “This often means viewing email, calendars, or files in places where the default white mode may be less suitable, like darkened airplanes, movie theaters, or in bed at night.”
Apple says Siri will no longer retain audio by default, one-upping Amazon and Google on privacy

Apple says Siri will no longer retain audio by default, one-upping Amazon and Google on privacy

5:08am, 3rd September, 2019
Photo by from Siri won’t be so sneaky about snooping anymore. That’s the gist of from Apple this morning. It’s a move that could pressure its fellow tech giants Amazon and Google to follow suit. Apple says it will no longer retain audio recordings of users interacting with its Siri voice assistant unless they opt in. And when they do, only Apple’s own employees, not contractors, will review the audio samples as part of the company’s efforts to monitor and improve the quality of Siri’s responses. The announcement follows assigning teams of people, in some cases contractors and not direct employees, to review audio clips of their users interacting with their voice assistants, unbeknownst to those users. The resulting outcry over the privacy invasions led each company to reconsider their policies. Both Apple and Google have put their practices of human review on hold pending reviews. by giving users the ability to opt out of voice recording and “manual review” of their interactions with its Alexa voice assistant, while still subtly discouraging users from taking that step by warning them that “voice recognition and new features may not work well” for them if they take that step. Apple, with this morning’s announcement, goes further by saying it will no longer retain audio recordings by default, instead requiring users to opt in if they want to participate. Here is Apple’s summary of the changes it’s planning to make. As a result of our review, we realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize. As we previously announced, we halted the Siri grading program. We plan to resume later this fall when software updates are released to our users — but only after making the following changes: First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve. Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time. Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri. Apple is committed to putting the customer at the center of everything we do, which includes protecting their privacy. We created Siri to help them get things done, faster and easier, without compromising their right to privacy. We are grateful to our users for their passion for Siri, and for pushing us to constantly improve. Apple suspended the program after that contractors reviewing Siri recordings for quality control regularly heard “confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex.”
Xbox Live is down for many (Update: It’s back up)

Xbox Live is down for many (Update: It’s back up)

5:09am, 3rd September, 2019
If you were trying to sneak in a quick game on Xbox Live during your Friday afternoon lunch break and found that you can’t get online: don’t worry, you’re not alone. While still says all things are good to go (Update: Microsoft’s status page has now caught up with the outage, and says that it’s impacting sign-ins, account creations and searches), reports are pouring in of an outage keeping many users from logging in. Microsoft acknowledged the problem on Twitter, saying that they’re “looking into it now.” Update, 2:30 PM: It’s back up! The status page shows all lights as green again, and a Microsoft spokesperson says that services have been fully restored. We're aware that some users are unable to sign in currently & our teams are looking into it now. We'll update when we have more info to share. Thanks for all the reports! — Xbox Support (@XboxSupport)
How I unwittingly steered OceanGate’s sub to discovery in Puget Sound’s depths

How I unwittingly steered OceanGate’s sub to discovery in Puget Sound’s depths

5:08am, 3rd September, 2019
POSSESSION SOUND, Wash. — Steering a five-person submersible is like playing a video game, except for the fact that you’re piloting a nine-ton piece of hardware at watery depths that are inaccessible to . I got my chance to play this week during a survey dive in a pocket of Puget Sound known as Possession Sound, courtesy of , a manufacturer and operator of submersibles that’s headquartered in Everett, Wash. During our three-hour tour, GeekWire photographer Kevin Lisota and I were taken around the sound at depths ranging as low as 350 feet, in OceanGate’s Cyclops submersible. We even played a supporting role in finding a colony of anemones in an unexpected underwater setting. The trip was part of a summertime expedition to get a better sense of the ecosystem on the bottom of Puget Sound, in collaboration with researchers from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If things had turned out differently, OceanGate would just now be wrapping up a series of submersible survey dives to the wreck of the Titanic in the North Atlantic. But , the company had to delay those trips until next year. That’s why OceanGate pivoted to the Puget Sound survey, and why Kevin and I found ourselves scrunched alongside marine biologist Tyler Coleman, pilot-in-training Mikayla Monroe and OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush on Tuesday. We began the morning with a safety briefing at the dock at Everett’s marina, led by Dan Scoville, OceanGate’s director of systems integration and marine operations. One of his bits of advice had to do with keeping calm if you hear thumps and bumps on Cyclops’ hull. “If you can hear it, you’re OK,” he said. If there’s a catastrophic collision and breach, you wouldn’t be around long enough to hear it. Then the Cyclops was towed out on its launch-and-recovery platform to Possession Sound by one of the boats in OceanGate’s fleet, the Kraken. A little more than an hour later, the Cyclops was in position, and we headed out to meet it on a faster boat, the Vito. Once we were dropped off on the floating platform, we handed up our backpacks, took our shoes off and climbed into Cyclops’ 5-foot-wide cabin. Mikayla sat on a mat toward the back, flanked by video screens that showed camera views and sonar readings. Stockton sat next to her, ready to give guidance. Tyler sat in the middle. Kevin and I had front-row seats, looking through Cyclops’ hemispherical acrylic viewing window. We let our stocking-clad feet rest on the window’s bottom, even though we were warned that we might feel the chill of the water on the other side. Once all the final checks were made, the crew members on the Vito, the Kraken, the platform and in the submersible took a five-minute timeout, known as a “stopski,” just to make completely sure all systems were go. (The idea — suggested by Scott Parazynski, a former NASA astronaut — was inspired by the built-in holds that are included in space launch countdowns.) Then it was time to dive. First the launch and recovery platform blew the compressed air out of its flotation tanks, in a process that had us dipping down backward into the water at a 20-degree angle. Green-tinted water sloshed wildly over our field of view. “Is this a freakout moment for some people?” I asked Stockton. “I haven’t run across that yet,” he replied. “You could be our first.” GeekWire’s Alan Boyle takes notes as he looks out the window of OceanGate’s Cyclops submersible. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Within minutes, we were sinking below the photic zone, where sunlight could penetrate to fuel the green plankton that tinted the waters. The view outside was total darkness, until Mikayla turned on the floodlights on each side of our window. Even then, plankton and the other particles floating in nutrient-rich Puget Sound cut the visibility to just a few feet around us. Mikayla relied on sonar readings to determine our depth, and on GPS readings to determine our heading. Our first destination was right beneath us: We headed for a wire cage containing a pile of salmon guts, which was dropped down on a line from a buoy to attract whatever creatures were foraging at the bottom. When we pulled up to the cage, we saw a smattering of rockfish (of the quillback and canary varieties), with 4-inch-long prawns and an occasional crab skittering through the scene, looking for a meal. The prime targets for OceanGate’s survey are shark species, and especially the rare, crowd-pleasing sixgill shark. We hoped to follow in the footsteps of Seattle rap musician Macklemore, who when he went looking for Puget Sound sixgills in a different Oceangate sub. We saw no sixgills, but we did catch sight of a slim, spiny dogflsh shark as it threaded its way around the bait box. “So we had our first official shark?” I asked Tyler. “Yup,” he said. Marine biologist Tyler Coleman identified this fish as a dogfish shark. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) Then we headed off to a wide stretch of muddy bottom, punctuated by holes that provided shelter for the prawns and other bottom-feeding critters. Stockton sidled over to me, holding the modified Sony PlayStation game controller that’s used to steer the sub. “Want to drive?” he said. It took me a while to get the hang of the controls: The front buttons serve as “dead man’s switches,” which have to be pressed in order to activate the controller’s dual joysticks. The left joystick controls the up and down thrusters, and the right joystick controls horizontal thrusters for forward and back, left and right. Simple, right? Nevertheless, I occasionally rose high enough to lose sight of the bottom, and sank low enough to plop the sub into the mud and send clouds of sediment rising up in front of our window. To get ourselves out of those obscuring clouds, I had to drive the sub out of the haze into clearer waters. At least there were no rocks to run into, which is why Stockton and Mikayla brought us to a field of mud before they handed me the controller. After a few minutes of meandering, Mikayla reported that there was something showing up on the sonar, about 15 meters dead ahead. Stockton took back the controller, and guided by Mikayla’s callouts, he brought us right up to what looked like a garden of cauliflowers, plunked in the middle of an underwater desert. It turned out that a tree stump had sunk 350 feet to the bottom, heaven knows how many years ago, and a colony of anemones had taken root there. Stockton was impressed, and he told Mikayla to take note of the coordinates. “The visibility is probably 10 feet today, but we can get 5 feet away, so that’s OK,” Stockton told me. “Imagine trying to find this if you were diving. … Nobody’s ever seen this log before, I’ll bet you even money.” Toward the end of the tour, we returned to the area where bait had been dropped to the bottom. Mikayla turned the lights off, waited for a school of rockfish to swim in front of our window, and then turned the lights back on so we could snap photos. When it was time to ascend, we rose through the dark murk and back into the sunlit green haze near the surface. Kevin and I were deputized to watch for the whitish outline of OceanGate’s launch-and-recovery platform, anchored a few meters below. It took a couple of tries to get properly “locked in” on the platform, due to a balky thruster. I was feeling grateful that Mikayla and Stockton were at the controls (and hoping I hadn’t damaged the thruster during my training session). At last we were locked in and lifted up. The sun seemed unusually bright as we climbed back up through the hatch and were motored back to shore. On the way back, Stockton talked about OceanGate’s plans to bring the submersible experience to a wider audience. “Diving’s no fun after you’ve been in a sub,” he said. Taking people down to the Titanic is still OceanGate’s prime objective: The submersible that’s designed for that role, which was initially called Cyclops II but is now known as Titan, proved it could safely get to Titanic-worthy depths this year . The postponement of the means there’s not a lot for Titan to do until next summer. It’s currently being prepped for an extra round of stress tests, plus equipment upgrades that should smooth the way for the 2020 season. OceanGate’s Titanic customers are paying to participate in the adventure as mission specialists, and most of them are keeping their reservations despite the delay. Stockton said that OceanGate’s subs — including Cyclops and Titan as well as the two-person Antipodes — are currently certified for research missions such as the Titanic expedition, but not for more casual tourist jaunts. Another perspective: Now OceanGate is seeking waivers from the Coast Guard that would allow the company to offer submersible tours for something like $1,000 or $2,000 per person. That’s more than operators in Hawaii charge for submarine tours, but those tours go only 100 feet beneath the surface and last only 45 minutes or so. OceanGate’s tourists would get an experience even more thrilling than ours — assuming that the regulatory go-ahead is given. “It’ll probably be six to 12 months before we get approval,” Stockton told me. Stockton and his team of 27 employees are also looking into whether their subs can be used for infrastructure inspection and environmental surveys. And they’re planning to build a bigger, better submersible called Cyclops III, which could handle depths of 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). To help fund those projects, OceanGate is in the midst of a that was reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission in April. So what’s tougher? Navigating the depths of Puget Sound, or negotiating the shoals of the startup world? , Stockton Rush is clearly adept at doing both. But personally, I’d rather be steering the sub. Correction for 4:36 p.m. PT Sept. 1: In a previous version of this report, we incorrectly identified a ratfish as a dogfish shark. We’ve amended the ID for the ratfish, and added a video screengrab of the dogfish. Woof! Also, we’ve corrected the anticipated cost of a submersible tour to be $1,000 to $2,000 per person, instead of per day.