Desperate Search and Rescue Mission for Missing Submersible with Tourists on Board Exploring Titanic Wreck
Search and rescue teams are in a desperate race against time to find a tourist submersible that went missing with five people on board during a dive to explore the wreck of the Titanic. The Titan submersible, operated by OceanGate Expeditions, lost contact with its mother ship about 1 hour and 45 minutes into its descent on June 18, prompting a search and rescue operation involving the US Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and other vessels and aircraft. The search zone covers an area about 900 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and 13,000 feet deep. The exact whereabouts of the submersible and the condition of the crew are unknown, but it is thought that the vessel may have less than 10 hours of oxygen remaining.
On Tuesday, a Canadian P-3 aircraft detected underwater noises in the search area, prompting the relocation of resources to explore their origin. However, searches have yielded negative results, according to the US Coast Guard. The signal, which apparently includes banging at half-hour intervals, continues to be investigated and analyzed. According to deep-sea specialists, without access to the data, it is challenging to identify the source of these sounds.
The Titan submersible is a research and survey vehicle that can carry five people, usually a pilot and four “mission specialists” who can include archaeologists, marine biologists, or anyone who can afford the experience as a tourist. The 22-foot-long vessel, powered by four electric thrusters that move it at a maximum speed of 3 knots, was equipped with 96 hours of oxygen. The submersible was only on its third Titanic trip since OceanGate Expeditions began offering them in 2021. It is made of carbon fiber and titanium and weighs about 23,000 pounds, with a battery of cameras, lights, and scanners to explore its environment.
When the submersible has reached the sea floor and is unable to resurface on its own, the available solutions are extremely restricted. In a best-case scenario, the Titan may have lost power and will have an inbuilt safety system that will help it return to the surface. As an example, it could be outfitted with extra weights that can be released to rapidly boost its buoyancy and raise it to the top. Another scenario is that there has been a leak in the pressure hull, in which case the prognosis is not good.
The search for the submersible is being hampered by the depth and remoteness of the area, which is about 700 kilometers south of St John’s, Newfoundland. It will be quite a challenge to locate an underwater vehicle as big as a small bus in this immense and isolated ocean area. The Titanic’s wreck sits some 3,800 meters deep in the Atlantic. Although the submersible may remain undamaged, it would be challenging to reach it beyond the continental shelf as only a handful of vessels are capable of diving to those depths, and divers are not among them.
OceanGate Expeditions has not confirmed who was on board the submersible, but passengers who have been identified include OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush, British billionaire Hamish Harding, French diver Paul Henry Nargeolet, prominent Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, and his son, Suleman. To secure a place on the submersible, one had to pay $250,000.
OceanGate has said that every step possible is being taken to bring the five crew members back safely. The company is deeply grateful for the urgent and extensive assistance it is receiving from multiple government agencies and deep-sea companies as it seeks to reestablish contact with the submersible. The US Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Air Force are deploying more aircraft and vessels to aid in the search for the vessel. The fleet of assets joining the operation includes a Canadian pipe-laying vessel with underwater capabilities, along with other vessels and aircraft.
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