Five men missing in the North Atlantic are reported to have a 96-hour oxygen supply aboard the Titan submarine.
A search is underway for a deep-sea vessel that has gone missing with five people aboard as it dove toward the wreckage of the ocean liner Titanic.
The United States Coast Guard is leading a search for the small ship Titan in the remote North Atlantic Ocean where the Titanic struck an iceberg in 1912 and sank, killing all but about 700 of its 2,200 passengers and crew.
OceanGate Expeditions, a company based in the US state of Washington that deploys crewed submersibles for deep-sea expeditions, said its vessel was the subject of a salvage operation.
Sunday’s dive of the Titan was one of many planned for the Titanic wreck by OceanGate from 2021.
Here’s what we know so far:
When and where did the Titan disappear?
- According to the US Coast Guard, the search is underway in about 3,900 meters (12,800 feet) of water about 1,450 kilometers (900 miles) east of the Cape Cod peninsula.
- The Titan took off on Sunday morning and lost contact with its support ship – the Polar Prince – about an hour and 45 minutes later.
- US and Canadian rescue ships and planes swooped into the search area and lowered some sonobuoys that could observe at depths of 3,900 meters (12,800 ft).
The Polar Prince and @Rescue106 Will continue to search the surface throughout the evening.
— USCGNortheast (@USCGNortheast) June 20, 2023
- Unlike submarines that leave and return to port under their own power, submarines require a ship to launch and recover.
- The Titan was launched from the Polar Prince, an icebreaker chartered by Oceangate that ferries people and submarines to wrecks in the North Atlantic where multiple dives have been conducted.
- Titan has a 96-hour oxygen supply, David Concannon, an adviser to Oceangate, told The Associated Press on Monday.
What kind of deep sea ship was it?
- The Titan is capable of diving to 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) “with a comfortable safety margin,” according to documents filed by the company in April with a US district court in Virginia overseeing Titanic matters.
- The Titan is made of “titanium and filament wound carbon fiber” and has been proven to “withstand the enormous pressures of the deep ocean,” according to Oceangate.
- In a May 2021 court filing, Oceangate said the Titan has an “unparalleled safety feature” that assesses the integrity of the hull throughout each dive.
- The Titan underwent more than 50 test dives in the deep waters of the Bahamas, with depths equivalent to the Titanic’s, the company said.
- Titan is “sure to usher in a new era of exploration by providing 50 percent access to the ocean for direct human observation”, the company said on its website.
- During its 2022 campaign, OceanGate reported that the submersible had battery problems during its first dive and had to be manually attached to its lifting platform, according to a November court filing.
What was Titan’s mission?
- OceanGate’s mission was aimed at the deterioration of the Titanic as well as the underwater ecosystem that often spawns shipwrecks.
- What remains of the Titanic is slowly succumbing to metal-eating bacteria that consume hundreds of kilograms of iron every day. Some have predicted that the wreck of the Titanic could disappear within decades.
- Oceangate equipped the Titan with high-definition cameras and multi-beam sonar equipment. Charting the decomposition of debris can help scientists predict the fate of other deep-sea debris.
- “The ocean is taking this stuff, and we need to document it before it all disappears or goes unrecognized,” Oceangate Expedition President Stockton Rush told the AP in 2021.
— OceanGate Expeditions (@OceanGateExped) June 19, 2023
Who was on board?
- The US Coast Guard said there was a pilot and four “mission specialists” on board.
- Oceangate expeditions to the Titanic wreck include archaeologists and marine biologists. The company also brings in people who pay to come along. Known as “mission specialists,” these men take turns operating the sonar equipment and performing other tasks on the five-person submarine.
- Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Sulaiman were on board, their family said in a statement. “We are very grateful for the outpouring of concern by our colleagues and friends and urge everyone to pray for their safety,” the statement said. UK billionaire businessman Hamish Harding was also said to be one of the mission experts, according to Action Aviation, a company Harding serves as chairman.
- The expeditions, which cost $250,000 per person, start in St. John’s, Newfoundland, before traveling about 640 km (400 miles) into the Atlantic, according to OceanGate’s website.
- The expedition was Oceangate’s third annual voyage to chronicle the sinking of the Titanic. An initial group of tourists paid $100,000 to $150,000 to travel in 2021.
- Harding’s stepson wrote on Facebook that Harding was “missing in a submarine” and asked for “thoughts and prayers.” The stepson later removed the post out of respect for the family’s privacy.
- Harding himself posted on Facebook that he would be on the sub. The expedition headed out to sea on Friday and the first dive was scheduled for Sunday morning, according to Harding’s post.
- Harding holds three Guinness World Records, including longest duration at full ocean depth by a crewed vessel. In March 2021, he and ocean explorer Victor Vescovo dived to the lowest depth of the Mariana Trench. In June 2022, he went into space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.