Race to find missing Titanic submarine with five onboard
A rescue operation is currently underway in the Atlantic Ocean after a tourist submersible carrying five passengers to the wreck of the Titanic lost contact with its support vessel.
OceanGate Expeditions confirmed that one of its submersibles has gone missing while taking people to see the famous wreck. US and Canadian rescue teams now face a race against time to locate the vessel, known as Titan, which has five passengers onboard and a four-day supply of oxygen.
OceanGate runs expeditions to the Titanic wreck with crews that comprise a mixture of historians, research scientists, dive experts and civilian ‘mission specialists’ who pay US$250,000 to come along for the ride and become one of a handful of people to experience the Titanic up close. In 2021 the firm started accepting applicantions from ‘citizen scientists’ to join its research missions.
All 5 members of the #Titan exploration to the Titanic have been identified. Stockton Rush, President & Founder of Oceangate, billionaire Hamish Harding, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman and pilot Paul Nargeolet #titantic #submarine pic.twitter.com/kKSjyiUyoF— Richard B. Long (@intell911) June 20, 2023
Titan‘s oxygen started being used at roughly 6am on Sunday morning and will therefore last until the early hours of Thursday. The vessel lost contact with its support vessel one hour and 45 minutes into the descent.
Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Sulaiman Dawood have been confirmed as two of the people on the missing submersible, along with British billionaire Hamish Harding; renowned French diver and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet; and Stockton Rush, who runs OceanGate Expeditions, the company that organised the mission to the wreck of the Titanic.
In an interview by CBS some months ago (video below), Oceangate CEO Rush is seen showing the interviewer around the Titanic submarine and showing the games console joystick used to manoeuvre the sub when underwater.
A statement released by the Dawood family, published by CNN, says: “As of now, contact has been lost with their submersible craft, and there is limited information available.
“We are very grateful for the concern being shown by our colleagues and friends and would like to request everyone to pray for their safety while granting the family privacy at this time. The family is well looked after and are praying to Allah for the safe return of their family members.”
The wreck of the Titanic is located around 3,800 metres (12,500ft) underneath the ocean’s surface, around 600km (370 miles) off the Newfoundland coast.
The US Coast Guard is leading the search and rescue operation, which involves military aircraft 900 miles east of Cape Cod. Surface searches are being carried out by the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince — Titan‘s support vessel — and 106 Rescue Wing.
“It is a remote area — and it is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area,” Rear Adm. John Mauger, a commander for the U.S. Coast Guard, tells AP News. “But we are deploying all available assets to make sure we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board.”
In a statement, OceanGate says its focus is on those aboard and their families.
“We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to reestablish contact with the submersible,” it says.
Since its discovery in 1985, fewer than 250 people have personally viewed the wreck of the Titanic. More than 1,500 people died when the ship struck an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912.
In 2022, the organisation published eerie footage of the Titanic‘s debris field, which showed some of the unexpected objects that have scattered over the sea bed. Later that year, Oceangate released the first ever 8k-resolution footage of the famous wreck, showing evidence of decay, with the ship’s rail partially collapsed.
In the long-form interview given last year, passenger and CEO Stockton Rush spoke about his fears regarding the voyage, but insisted that the mission was ultimately safe.
Speaking to CBS News, Rush described how his greatest fear was failing to resurface.
“‘What I worry about most are things that will stop me from being able to get to the surface,’ he said.
“Overhangs, fish nets, entanglement hazards. And, that’s just a technique, piloting technique. It’s pretty clear – if it’s an overhang, don’t go under it. If there is a net, don’t go near it. So, you can avoid those if you are just slow and steady.”
He also spoke about the simplistic approach to the vessel’s design, including using a white Xbox controller to run the operation.
“We run the whole thing with this game controller,’ he said. ‘It should be like an elevator, it shouldn’t take a lot of skill.
“I don’t think it’s very dangerous. If you look at submersible activity over the last three decades, there hasn’t even been a major injury, let alone a fatality,” Rush said.
Submarine experts have spoken to numerous media outlets today to relay fears the Titan vessel is too deep for a manned rescue sub, such as the US Navy sub, which is limited to 610 metres (2,000ft), and that the only way of reaching it may be using a remote operated vehicle, which can reach a depth of up to 6,100 metres (20,000ft.)
David Concannon, an adviser to OceanGate, told AP that he had been supposed to be on the dive, but could not go. He tells the news organisation that officials are currently working on getting a remotely operated vehicle that can reach a depth of 3.7 miles (6 kilometres) to the site as soon as possible.