Titanic sub: Teenager on Titan submersible took Rubik's cube onboard to break record

Christine Dawood, whose husband Shahzada and son Suleman died aboard the Titan submersible, has revealed that she had intended to take part in the doomed expedition but stepped aside so her son could go instead.

The family had been planning a trip on the Titan submersible for some time, Dawood told the BBC in her first interview since the tragedy, but it was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She had originally planned to make the trip with her husband because Suleman was too young at the time.

"Then I stepped back and gave the space to Suleman because he really wanted to go," Dawood said.

"I was really happy for them because both of them, they really wanted to do that for a very long time," she added.

Suleman Dawood (left) and Shahzada Dawood died aboard the Titan submersible.
Suleman Dawood (left) and Shahzada Dawood died aboard the Titan submersible. Photo credit: Courtesy of Engro Corporation Limited/Reuters

Asked how she felt now about her son taking her place on the submersible, Dawood declined to say.

She also told the BBC that the 19-year-old was a Rubik's Cube obsessive who took the puzzle, which he could solve in 12 seconds, with him on the Titan.

"Suleman did not go anywhere without his Rubik's cube," Dawood said.

"He said, 'I'm going to solve the Rubik's Cube 3,700 meters below sea at the Titanic,'" she added.

"He was so excited about this," Dawood said, describing how Suleman taught himself to solve the puzzle using YouTube videos.

Dawood also spoke of how she met husband Shahzada at university, and recalled how his great curiosity about the world meant he would make the family watch documentaries together.

"He had this ability of childlike excitement," she said.

Dawood recounted the moment that those on board the Polar Prince support vessel – including herself and her 17-year-old daughter, Alina – were told that staff were no longer able to communicate with the Titan.

"I didn't comprehend at that moment what that meant – and then it just went downhill from there," she said.

Christine Dawood, mother of 19-year-old Suleman Dawood who died on the Titanic sub.
Christine Dawood, mother of 19-year-old Suleman Dawood who died on the Titanic sub. Photo credit: BBC

Everyone thought the submersible would resurface, Dawood added.

"There was a lot of hope," she said.

"I think I lost hope when we passed the 96 hours mark," Dawood said, adding that at that point she messaged her family.

"I said: 'I'm preparing for the worst.' That's when I lost hope," she said.

As for what happens now, Dawood said she doubted she and Alina would ever be able to find closure.

"Is there such a thing? I don't know," she said.

However, the pair have vowed to learn to solve the Rubik's Cube, she added.

"We promised ourselves we're going to learn it for Suleman," said Dawood.

The family will also work to continue Shahzada's work.

"He was involved in so many things, he helped so many people and I think I really want to continue that legacy and give him that platform… It's quite important for my daughter as well," she said.

"I miss them," she added. "I really, really miss them."

The Dawoods are from a prominent Pakistani business family.

Dawood Hercules Corp., their business, is among the largest companies in the country, with a portfolio spanning energy, petrochemicals, fertilizers, information technology and food and agriculture.

Shahzada and Suleman joined a voyage on board the Titan submersible – roughly the size of a minivan – to observe the wreck of the Titanic ocean liner, which lies around 12,500 feet below the surface of the North Atlantic.

The submersible went missing on June 18, about 1 hour and 45 minutes into its descent to explore the wreckage. On Thursday, debris from the sub was found by search teams, indicating that the vessel had suffered a catastrophic implosion, killing all five people on board.