Former "Jeopardy!" Champ Was Supposed To Go on a Titanic Submersible Tour

During the Jeopardy! Masters tournament last month, Sam Buttrey revealed why he missed out.

This week, the news cycle was dominated by reports of the OceanGate submersible, which went missing during an excursion to see the Titanic wreckage. While many held out hope that the five people onboard would be found alive, on June 22, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that the vessel had suffered a "catastrophic implosion," and all passengers had been killed. In light of the news, a clip from a May episode of the Jeopardy! Masters tournament has gone viral, as former champ and fan favorite Sam Buttrey revealed that he was actually supposed to go on a Titanic submersible tour. Read on to find out why Buttrey missed out.

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Buttrey shared his "nautical story."

A clip from the May episode cropped up on TikTok, posted by the user @lousyshirtshop. In the clip, Buttrey—who became the first-ever Jeopardy! Professors Tournament champ in 2021—was asked by host Ken Jennings about his "nautical story."

"Sam Buttrey from Pacific Grove, California, an associate professor, we know, at the Naval Postgraduate School, and a pretty good nautical story here," Jennings opened, then asking Buttrey, "You went to your own son's wedding, but at great cost, is that right?"

It was then that the professor revealed he had plans to go see the Titanic wreckage.

The champ said it was a "once-in-a-life opportunity," but he doesn't regret missing it.

sam buttrey jeopardy

Responding to Jennings, Buttrey said, "That's right, KJ. I have a friend who operates a company that will take you out to the wreck of the Titanic. So you go out in a boat, and then you go down in a submersible craft and tour the wreckage."

Buttrey said it "sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," but it didn't happen due to a "miracle of bad timing."

"My son John and daughter-in-law Caitlin were getting married that weekend," Buttrey said. "I was very happy to go there, it was a beautiful wedding, and not a shred of regret in my life."

Jennings wrapped up the back-and-forth by saying, "There's a joke somewhere about a wedding and undersea wreckage, but it sounds like it was a wonderful event."

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He wasn't slated to be on the most recent OceanGate excursion.

The Titan submersible diving underwater
CBS News / This Morning

While it was an amusing anecdote at the time, Buttrey's statement feels somewhat unsettling now—as bad timing may have truly been a "miracle" for the Jeopardy! icon.

But BuzzFeed reports that due to the timing, Buttrey wasn't going to be a passenger on the ill-fated OceanGate submersible, which went missing on June 18. However, the outlet points out that it's "highly likely that it was a similar one run by OceanGate."

Fans were thankful Buttrey was spared.

sam buttrey competing jeopardy

Fans voiced their relief that Buttrey—who bears a strong resemblance to actor Steve Martin—didn't end up on one of these vessels.

"Thank God he was spared, Steve Martin is a national treasure!" a commenter joked on TikTok.

Another quipped, "'What is 'dodged a bullet there' for $500."

Yet another commenter wrote, "Oh my god I love Sam, I'm glad the ocean gods spared him," while a TikToker pointed out that the clip "didn't age well."

The conversation continued on Twitter.

"I just saw a TikTok that reminded me that one of Prof. Sam Buttrey's anecdotes in the recent #JeopardyMasters tournament was missing out on a submarine trip to the Titanic to go to a wedding," a June 20 tweet reads. "In light of recent events, I think it's for the best that he missed out."

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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