Race Against Time: Search for Missing Titanic Submersible with Limited Oxygen Supply
The search for the missing OceanGate Titan sub is a race against time as those aboard have only two days of air left. The 22-foot-long submersible, which can take five people to depths of up to 4,000m, lost contact with its surface vessel, the Polar Prince, around 105 minutes into a dive to the wreckage of the Titanic, roughly 375 nautical miles from Newfoundland, Canada. The craft, powered by four electric thrusters that move it at a maximum speed of 3 knots, was likely operating independently of the surface ship.
The US and Canadian Coast Guards are participating in the search and rescue effort and are being aided by other vessels in the area of the Titanic wreck located about 370 miles south-by-southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and 900 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. French mariner Paul-Henry Nargeolet, considered one of the leading experts on the Titanic, is feared to be aboard the missing submersible visiting the wreckage.
OceanGate Expeditions charges guests $250,000 for a place on its eight-day expedition to see the famous wreck, which sits 12,500ft (3,800m) beneath the surface at the bottom of the Atlantic. The submersible was offering excursions of the Titanic’s wreckage for around $250,000 per person.
The search effort is complicated as the submersible could be deep in the ocean, and rescuers would have to locate the submersible itself and find a way to extricate it from the ocean. Authorities are using boats, aircraft, and radar equipment to scan above water, while sonar buoys and equipment on ships are being used to detect sounds below water.
If search crews locate the missing submersible deep in the ocean, authorities will face a highly complex mission to recover the craft and any survivors. The submersible has “about 40 hours of breathable air left,” according to the US Coast Guard, and authorities estimated that the submersible had “somewhere between 70 to the full 96 hours” of oxygen.
The submersible would need to be rescued in three days to save its five passengers, according to the Coast Guard. Unlike a submarine, submersibles have limited power reserves and need a separate support vessel that can launch and recover them. In 2020, U.K. billionaire and aviator Hamish Harding became one of the first people to dive to Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean, widely believed to be the deepest point in the world’s oceans.
Harding was one of the five people reportedly on board a missing Titanic tourist submersible, and he posted on Instagram ahead of the voyage that it was likely to be “the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023” because of “the worst weather in 40 years” in Newfoundland. OceanGate CEO and founder Stockton Rush, who is also missing, said last year that his tourism and research company had reached the site of the Titanic a dozen times between 2021 and 2022.
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