Titanic Tourist Submarine: Rescuers scan ocean as clock ticks

  • By Kathryn Armstrong & George Wright
  • BBC News

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Titanic sits 3,800m (12,500ft) below the bottom of the Atlantic (file image)

Search teams are racing against time to find a submarine of tourists who went missing when the Titanic sank on Sunday.

Five people were on board when contact was lost with the smaller companion less than an hour and 45 minutes later.

Rescue operations continued overnight in the mid-Atlantic but so far there has been no sign of the ship.

US and Canadian agencies, navies and commercial deep-sea companies are all assisting in the rescue operation.

Pakistani businessman Shahjata Dawood and his son Suleman were also on the plane, their families said in a statement.

French explorer Paul-Henri Narjolet is believed to be on board, according to Mr Harding’s Facebook post before the dive began.

Stockton Rush, chief executive of OceanGate – the company behind the dive – is also widely reported to be on board.

“Right now, our focus is on getting as much capability as we can,” U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mager said at a news conference.

Military aircraft, submarines and sonar buoys have so far been used in the search for the vessel.

The Titanic’s wreck lies 435 miles (700 km) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland, although the recovery effort is being operated from Boston, Massachusetts.

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Watch: In 2022, the BBC filmed inside a Titanic sub with company boss Stockton Rush.

The missing vessel is believed to be tour company OceanGate’s Titan submersible, which CBS reporter David Bogue sailed on last year to reach the wreck of the Titanic.

He told the BBC that when the support ship is directly above the sub, text messages can be sent between the two.

Otherwise, communications are not available through GPS or radio systems, as they do not work underwater.

Bock says it was impossible for the sub’s occupants to escape on their own because they were sealed inside by bolts applied from the outside.

A submarine is different from a submarine. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a submarine can launch itself into the ocean from a port, while a submarine has very limited power reserves, so it needs a mother ship to retrieve it.

Rear Adm Mauger said operations were difficult as the area where the search was being conducted was “remote”.

Added to this is the fact that visibility is quickly lost below the surface of the water as light cannot penetrate very far.

The OceanGate website lists three submarines it owns, and the Titan is the only one capable of diving deep enough to reach the Titanic wreck.

The vessel weighs 23,000 pounds (10,432 kg) and can reach depths of up to 13,100 feet, according to the website.

Tickets cost $250,000 (£195,000) for the eight-day trip, which includes a dive into the ruins at a depth of 3,800m (12,500ft).

Taking to social media over the weekend, Mr Harding said he was “finally proud to announce” that he would be on a mission to the wreck of the Titanic – but “with Newfoundland’s worst winter in 40 years, this mission could be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023”.

He later wrote: “A weather window is open and we’re going to dive tomorrow.”

OceanGate said it was “unable to establish communications with one of our submersible exploration vehicles” but its “full attention [was] On Submarine Personnel and Their Families”.

We are deeply grateful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep-sea agencies in our efforts to re-establish contact with the submarine.

The company bills the eight-day voyage aboard its carbon-fiber submersible as “a chance to step away from everyday life and discover something truly extraordinary.”

It departs from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and each full dive, including descent and ascent, is said to take eight hours.

According to its website, one expedition is underway, and two more are planned for June 2024.

During her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg. More than 1,500 of the 2,200 passengers and crew on board died.

Its ruins have been extensively explored since their discovery in 1985.

The wreck is in two parts, the bow and stern separated by about 2,600 feet. A large debris field surrounds the wrecked ship.

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WATCH: A recently released video shows a 3D view of the Titanic 3,800m (12,500ft) below the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

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