‘Simpsons’ Writer Mike Reiss Rode the Titanic Submersible and Lived to Tell About It

Reiss describes the sub as ‘basically a car that you drunkenly drove into the ocean’
‘Simpsons’ Writer Mike Reiss Rode the Titanic Submersible and Lived to Tell About It

Simpsons writer and producer Mike Reiss isn’t exactly the adventurous type. When he says that he and his wife Denise like danger, he actually means “just my wife, not me, not even a little.” So when a friend told the couple years ago about a guy who takes passengers on deep dives in his homemade subs, only Mrs. Reiss was interested. They signed up for the adventure anyway, Reiss recounts in an essay for American Bystander.

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The guy who made his own submarines was Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate and one of the passengers on a Titanic-bound craft that’s currently missing. To Reiss, Rush’s name alone certified him as a man “fated to a life of adventure.” Reiss’s first trip with Rush started innocently enough off the coast of Staten Island, exploring an underwater gorge as big as the Grand Canyon. They traveled in a Rush-designed vehicle that Reiss says resembled “a Star Wars TIE Fighter or a high-end vape pen.” The most dangerous part? That was actually getting into the sub, a process Reiss describes as leaning a six-foot kitchen ladder against a bobbing vessel and scrambling in.

That trip down into the Hudson Canyon — Rush told Reiss they were the first to ever do it — encouraged Rush to attempt the two-and-a-half-mile trip down to the wreckage of the Titanic. Reiss was reluctant to join him but Denise wanted to go, so two years later, they found themselves in Newfoundland ready to explore. 

As CBS News reported last year, Rush’s subs could be a little on the makeshift side. Reiss’s account is no different, saying that the sub “looked super-cool from the front” but a look around back found “a bunch of Styrofoam blocks randomly strapped on.” Appropriately, Reiss was scared to death, especially when signing a waiver acknowledging that potential risks included “injury, disability and death.” 

Reiss’s actual descent into the land of the Titanic was decidedly low-tech. He describes the sub as “basically a car that you drunkenly drove into the ocean.” To tilt the sub in a certain direction, the pilot simply ordered everyone to that side of the vessel until the passengers’ weight tipped it that way. The steering mechanism was a joystick from a video game. 

Luckily for Reiss, his voyage was mostly uneventful. The ocean two miles down was “pretty empty,” he says, and he actually fell asleep at one point. The sub landed far from the Titanic and ocean currents pushed it even further away. Furious attempts at navigation got them nowhere. But just minutes before giving up, there it was — the bow of the Titanic. Reiss says it looked just like the images captured in a million documentaries. Was he thrilled? Not exactly. “It wasn’t overwhelming, it wasn’t underwhelming. It was whelming.”

The most dangerous part of Reiss’s voyage happened when the sub was hoisted back on the ship, inadvertently flipping and sending the passengers crashing into the bottom of the sub. Ouch. 

Rush eventually told Reiss that more people had been in outer space than had done what they had done. Reiss had a special distinction — the only writer for Alf ever to visit the remains of the Titanic. Here’s hoping the missing sub passengers have a similar happy ending. 

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