A race against time is underway as search teams from the US and Canada frantically try to locate a tourist submarine that went missing during a dive into the Titanic wreck on Sunday.
The submarine had five people on board when contact was lost approximately one hour and 45 minutes into the dive. Despite ongoing rescue efforts overnight in the mid-Atlantic, there have been no signs of the vessel thus far.
Government agencies, naval forces from both countries and commercial deep-sea companies are all collaborating in the rescue operation.
At the time of this incident, it was estimated that the crew members had around four days’ worth of oxygen remaining. Notably, among the individuals on board is Hamish Harding, a British billionaire businessman and explorer.
Rear Adm John Mauger of the US Coast Guard emphasized the current focus of maximizing resources in the area to aid in the search. Stating, “Right now, our focus is getting on as much capability into the area as we can.”
The search for the vessel involved the use of military aircraft, submarines, and sonar buoys. While the Titanic wreck is situated approximately 435 miles (700 km) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland. The rescue mission is being coordinated from Boston, Massachusetts.
The US Coast Guard reported that the Polar Prince, a research ship typically employed for transporting submersibles to the wreckage site. It conducted a surface search for the sub on Monday evening.
Identifying the Missing Submarine and Communication Challenges
The missing submarine is believed to be OceanGate’s Titan submersible. A vessel that CBS journalist David Pogue travelled aboard last year to reach the Titanic wreckage.
According to Pogue, when the support ship is directly above the sub, short text messages can be exchanged between the two. However, communication through GPS or radio systems is not possible underwater.
Escaping the submarine independently is also not feasible for those on board. They are sealed inside by externally applied bolts, as described by Pogue.
Rear Adm Mauger acknowledged the challenging nature of the search area. Noting its remote location, which hampers operations. Additionally, visibility rapidly diminishes underwater as light cannot penetrate far.
OceanGate owns three submersibles, with only the Titan capable of diving to the necessary depths to reach the Titanic wreck. Weighing 23,000 lbs (10,432 kg), the vessel can reportedly reach depths of up to 13,100 ft.
Tickets for the eight-day trip, including dives to the wreck at a depth of 3,800m (12,500ft), are priced at $250,000 (£195,000).