This undated handout from the Dawood Hercules Corporation released on June 20, 2023 shows businessman Shahzada Dawood, the vice-chairman of Karachi-headquartered conglomerate Engro, and his son Suleman. Image Credit: AFP

Teen on Titan sub hoped to solve Rubik's Cube 12,000 feet down, mom says

Suleman Dawood never went anywhere without a Rubik's Cube. The submersible to explore the wreckage of the Titanic at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean was no exception.

Suleman, who died at 19 alongside his father and three others as the Titan submersible imploded, planned to film himself solving a Rubik's Cube at the seafloor some 12,500 feet below the surface of the Atlantic.

"He applied for a world record because he wanted to solve the Rubik's Cube at the deepest point, basically," Christine Dawood told the BBC in an on-camera interview. While she said the request was rejected, he still planned to document the puzzle. "He said, 'I'm gonna solve the Rubik's Cube at 3,700 meters below,'" Christine said. "And he was so excited about this."

Christine and her daughter Alina, 17, now plan to honor Suleman's memory by learning how to solve a Rubik's Cube themselves. "That's gonna be a challenge for us, because we are really bad at it," she said. "We promised ourselves we're gonna learn it for Suleman."

Guinness World Records said in a statement that it did receive an application from Suleman earlier this year "with a new record title suggestion for the deepest Rubik's Cube solve."

The four-day, global search and rescue operation for the Titan after it went missing off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada captured the world's attention. Its passengers also included Suleman's father, British Pakistani billionaire Shahzada Dawood, 48; two other wealthy passengers, Hamish Harding and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, who each paid $250,000; and the operating company's CEO, Stockton Rush.

The anecdote sheds more light on its youngest passenger, Suleman, who had recently graduated from ACS International School Cobham in England - and the toll on a family that lost both a father and a brother.

"I really, really miss them," Christine said. The plan had previously been for her and her husband to go down in the Titan before the coronavirus pandemic, Christine said. Suleman was not yet 18, so he was not eligible for the expedition.

But the pandemic delayed the family's plans. When it came time to take the trip in June, Christine said she "stepped back and gave the space to Suleman because he really wanted to go."

The father and son duo had wanted to take this trip "for a very long time," she said. "I was really happy for them."

The Titan incident sparked an investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and has raised questions about the safety record of the company operating the submersible, OceanGate, as well as increased scrutiny of the unregulated industry for deep-sea tourism.

Christine and her daughter watched the submersible's journey from the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince. She said she "lost hope when we passed the 96 hours mark" - the estimated point past which the submersible ran out of oxygen supply.

Before Shahzada and Suleman boarded the Titan, the family "hugged and joked," Christine said.

It had been a lifelong dream of her husband's, she said. "Shahzada was so excited to go down, he was like a little child."

The BBC interview is the first time Christine, a professional development and life coach who sits on the board of the Dawood Foundation, has spoken on camera since the sub went missing.

Suleman enjoyed watching movies, reading science fiction books and playing volleyball. And "he loved his father," expressing an interest in the things Shahzada enjoyed, his mother, Christine, said.

Suleman was skilled at solving Rubik's Cubes and taught himself how to do it by watching YouTube videos, his mother said. He could solve one in as little as 12 seconds, she said. According to the Guinness World Records, the fastest average time for solving a 3x3x3 rotating puzzle cube is 4.48 seconds.

Christine said that Suleman once impressed an airport security guard so much with the speed at which he solved the Rubik's Cube that the guard took him and his family to the front of the check-in line. The guard "said, 'you go, because that is impressive,'" Christine recalled.

To honor Suleman's memory, Christine said she and her daughter plan to "watch every single movie that he liked." Christine said she also plans to continue her husband's work. Shahzada was the vice chairman of the Pakistani conglomerate Engro Corp., which has a mix of industrial interests including fertilizers, textiles and food.