OceanGate Expedition’s Titan submersible goes missing during tourist trip to Titanic wreckage

The search for OceanGate Expedition's Titan submersible continues after it went missing on Sunday during a deep-sea tourist trip to the Titanic shipwreck.[0] The submersible, which had five people on board, lost contact with its support vessel, Polar Prince, one hour and 45 minutes into its descent and has not been detected on the water's surface.[0] Sonar buoys have detected underwater banging noises within the search region, leading remotely operated diving vehicles to target the location of the sounds. However, the submersible is believed to be at a depth of 3,800 metres, which makes locating it a significant challenge.[1] OceanGate Expeditions charges $250,000 per person for a chance to visit the Titanic wreckage.[2]

The Titan submersible is a manned watercraft that moves in a similar fashion to submarines but within a much more limited range. It is equipped with navigational tools, including a viewport, outside cameras and an array of signals, lighting, reflectors and other equipment that can be used once on the surface to attract attention. It also has life support capabilities sufficient to sustain its five-person crew for 96 hours.[3] However, if the submersible has gone down to the seabed and cannot get back up under its own power, the options are very limited.[1]

Several agencies, including US, Canadian, and French authorities, are working together to locate the submersible.[4] The search involves boats, aircraft and radar equipment being deployed to scan above water in case the submersible has surfaced.[5] Sonar buoys and sonar equipment in commercial vessels onsite are also being used to detect sounds below water.

There are several possible scenarios for what might have happened to the submersible. 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.[6] However, if the hull was compromised resulting in a leak, “the prognosis is not good,” according to Alistair Greig, a professor of marine engineering at University College London.[1]

OceanGate Expeditions has confirmed that all five passengers on board are presumed dead after the US Coast Guard announced that the submersible suffered a catastrophic implosion.[7] The news came after a remote-controlled search vehicle located a “debris field” nearly 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic.[8] The submersible was run by OceanGate Expeditions, a company that provides crewed submersible services for exploration, industry and research purposes.[8] The Titan submersible was one of only five manned submersibles in the world capable of reaching the depth required to visit the Titanic wreckage.

0. “Titanic submersible: Why rescuers have their work cut out for them” NPR, 20 Jun. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/06/20/1183152712/titanic-submarine-missing-search

1. “Missing Titanic submersible: what is the Titan tourist sub and what might have happened to it?” The Guardian, 20 Jun. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jun/20/missing-titanic-sub-titan-submersible-tourist-oceangate-what-is-it-and-what-might-have-happened

2. “Titanic submersible: 5 passengers on missing sub likely dead following ‘catastrophic implosion'” Yahoo News, 22 Jun. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/titanic-missing-submersible-search-passengers-believed-dead-titan-recovery-190229608.html

3. “Titanic submarine tour company OceanGate Expeditions: What to know” Fox Business, 19 Jun. 2023, https://www.foxbusiness.com/lifestyle/titanic-submarine-tour-company-oceangate-expeditions-what-to-know

4. “Titanic submersible: What we know about the catastrophic implosion” BBC, 22 Jun. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-65934887

5. “What we know about the missing Titanic submersible” CNN, 21 Jun. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/06/19/us/titanic-wreckage-missing-submersible-search-explainer-intl-hnk/index.html

6. “Missing Titanic sub: what are submersibles, how do they communicate, and what may have gone wrong?” The Conversation, 20 Jun. 2023, https://theconversation.com/missing-titanic-sub-what-are-submersibles-how-do-they-communicate-and-what-may-have-gone-wrong-208100

7. “East Aurora-based Pelagic Research gear, crew find Titan submersible” WGRZ.com, 23 Jun. 2023, https://www.wgrz.com/article/news/local/east-aurora-pelagic-research-gear-crew-find-titan-submersible/71-8c1b8734-b46a-4f50-8aa7-78cdba12fea3

8. “Missing Titanic sub imploded, Coast Guard says — Here's what went wrong” Yahoo Life, 22 Jun. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/missing-titanic-sub-imploded-coast-204101298.html