Rescuers raced to a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean early Tuesday morning to find a missing submarine carrying five people. In the process of documenting the wreck of the Titanic.
A pilot, a renowned British adventurer, two members of an iconic Pakistani business family, and a Titanic expert are on board the carbon-fiber submarine, named Titan, as part of a mission by OceanGate Expeditions. Officials said the vessel expired on Sunday night About 435 miles (700 kilometers) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland, according to Canada’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.
However, each passing minute puts the Titan’s crew in greater danger. According to OceanGate’s consultant David Concannon, the submarine had a 96-hour oxygen supply when it went to sea around 6 a.m. Sunday. That means the oxygen supply will run out by 6 am on Thursday.
“It’s a remote area — and it’s challenging to conduct a search in that remote area,” said Rear Adm. John Mager, the U.S. Coast Guard commander searching for the Titan.
Mauger said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show that his crew is working to prioritize underwater search efforts and get equipment there to help with the search.
“We’re working very hard to make sure we bring in all the assets…with leading technology experts, what’s available, what’s available to the team,” he said.
The Canadian research icebreaker Polar Prince, which was supporting the Titan, reportedly lost contact with the ship about an hour and 45 minutes after it sank. The U.S. Coast Guard said on Twitter that the Polar Prince should continue its surface search through the night, and Canadian Boeing B-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft will resume their surface and subsurface search in the morning. Two American Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft also conducted overflights.
The Canadian military dropped sonar buoys to listen for any possible sounds from the Titan.
Ship-tracking satellite data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by The Associated Press showed the Polar Prince 430 miles (690 kilometers) southeast of St. John’s on Tuesday morning. The Bahamas-flagged cable Layer Deep Energy was also nearby, likely to assist in the surface search.
In an earlier email to the AP, Concannon said he wanted to dive but couldn’t. He said officials are working to get a remotely operated vehicle that can reach a depth of 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) to the site soon.
Oceangate’s Journeys to the Titanic Wreck Site There are archaeologists and marine biologists. The company also brings in paid people called “mission experts.” They take turns operating the sonar equipment and performing other tasks aboard the five-man submarine.
The Coast Guard said Monday that a pilot and four “mission specialists” were on board. However, OceanGate’s website says the fifth person on board may be a so-called “content specialist” who guides paying customers.
OceanGate said its focus is on those on board and their families.
“We are deeply grateful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep-sea agencies in our efforts to re-establish contact with the submarines,” it said in a statement.
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush told The Associated Press in June 2021 that each dive typically consists of a pilot, a researcher and three mission specialists. Mission specialists will operate the sonar instruments and cameras, as well as handle communications and drive the Titan, he said.
“So, we have a text message system — two of them, actually. So, someone will be in communication, typing messages back and forth. And then everyone, conditions permitting, will have to drive along. So, assuming visibility is pretty good and the currents aren’t bad, We’re not next to a wreck, and they’ll have a chance to run a companion.
Rush called Titan’s technology “very cutting-edge” and said it was developed with the help of NASA and Boeing, as well as other aerospace manufacturers.
“It’s the only submersible — the crude submarine — that’s made of carbon fiber and titanium; the largest carbon fiber structure we know of. It’s 5 inches thick carbon fiber, three-quarters of an inch thick titanium,” Rush said.
Officials have yet to formally identify those on board, although some names have been confirmed.
Hamish Harding, a British businessman living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is one of the mission experts, according to Action Aviation, the company Harding serves as chairman. The company’s executive director, Mark Butler, told the AP that the crew left on Friday.
“There is still plenty of time to facilitate a rescue mission, in which case survival equipment is on board,” Butler said. “We all hope and pray that he makes a safe return.”
Harding is a billionaire adventurer who has held three Guinness World Records, including the longest submersion at full ocean depth by a crewed ship. In March 2021, he and oceanographer Victor Vescovo dived to the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench. In June 2022, he went into space on Blue Origin’s New Shepherd rocket.
Pakistanis Shahjada Dawood and his son Suleman were also on the plane, according to a family statement sent to the AP. The Dawoods are one of the most prominent families in Pakistan. Their namesake company invests across the country in agriculture, industries and healthcare.
“We are extremely grateful for the concern shown by our colleagues and friends and ask that everyone pray for their safety while affording the family privacy at this time,” the statement said. “The family is well cared for and we pray to Allah for the safe return of their family members.”
Shahjata Dawood is on the board of trustees of the California-based SETI Institute, which searches for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Paul-Henri Narjolet, a French explorer and Titanic expert, was also on board, according to David Gallo, senior adviser for strategic initiatives and special projects at RMS Titanic. During an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Gallo identified a friend named Narjolette who had guided several voyages to the Titanic.
The voyage was Oceangate’s third annual voyage to chronicle the devastation of the Titanic, which hit an iceberg in 1912 and sank, killing all but 700 of its approximately 2,200 passengers and crew. Since the wreck was discovered in 1985, it has been slowly succumbing to metal-eating bacteria.
OceanGate’s website describes the “mission support fee” for the 2023 voyage as $250,000 per person.
Unlike submarines that can launch and return to port under their own power, submarines require a ship to launch and recover them. OceanGate hired the Polar Prince to transport dozens of people and submarines to the North Atlantic wreck site. A submarine will make several dives in one trip.
The voyage was scheduled to depart St. John’s, Newfoundland in early May and finish in late June, according to documents filed by the company in April with the U.S. District Court in Virginia, which oversees Titanic affairs.
CBS journalist David Bock, who went on the voyage last year, noted that his ship had returned in search of the Titanic.
“Underwater there is no GPS, so the surface ship has to guide the shipwrecked mate by sending text messages,” Bogue said in a segment that aired on CBS Sunday Morning. “But on this dive, communication somehow broke down. The deputy never found the wreck.
The submarine, named Titan, is capable of diving 2.4 miles (4 kilometers) with a “comfortable margin of safety,” OceanGate said in its court filing.
It weighs 20,000 pounds (9,072 kilograms) in the air, but will remain neutrally buoyant once it reaches the ocean floor, the company said.
Rescue workers face tough challenges, experts said Monday.
Alistair Craig, a professor of marine engineering at University College London, says that submarines typically have a drop weight, which is “a mass that can be brought to the surface using buoyancy in an emergency.”
“This could have happened if there had been a power failure and/or communication failure, and the submarine would have been on the surface waiting to be found,” Craig said.
Another scenario is a leak in the pressure hull, and in this case the prognosis is not good, he said.
“If it can’t land on the seabed and rise again under its own power, the options are very limited,” Craig said. “Even if the submarine is intact, if it’s beyond the continental shelf, there are very few ships that can reach that depth, certainly not divers.”
Even if they could go that deep, he doubted they would be able to attach the hatches of Oceangate’s submersible.
Associated Press writers Danica Kirka, Jill Lawless and Sylvia Hui in London, Robert Gillies in Toronto, Olga R. Rodriguez, John Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.