Titanic submarine search: Rescue efforts critical, just 3 hrs of oxygen left

New rescue vessels deployed to locate the OceanGate Titan submersible that went missing in the North Atlantic with five people onboard on Sunday, 18 June

The OceanGate Titan submersible (photo courtesy National Geographic)
The OceanGate Titan submersible (photo courtesy National Geographic)

NH Digital

A massive search for a missing submersible near the wreckage of the Titanic has reached the critical stage on Thursday, June 22, with only three hours remaining before the five people on board run out of oxygen.

The vessel had started with a total of 96 hours of emergency oxygen, which is predicted to run out by roughly 7:15 pm IST in a best-case scenario where the occupants may have tried to conserve air.

However, more cautious estimates suggest they may in fact be already out of air, and the search is at risk of becoming a recovery, rather than a rescue mission now.

The rescue organisers rushed more ships and vessels to the site of the disappearance, hoping to locate the tiny vessel after detecting rhythmic underwater sounds for a second straight day.

The OceanGate Titan submersible went missing on Sunday, June 18, on its trip to survey the remains of the Titanic, which sunk in April 1912 and is more than two miles (nearly 4 kilometres) below the surface of the North Atlantic.

The submersible en route to the Titanic wreck was meant to return to the surface after 24 hours, according to Aaron Newman, an investor in OceanGate who visited the site of the vessel in 2021, reports CNN.

Some 'banging' sounds were picked up by sonar on Tuesday and Wednesday during the search, repeating every half hour or so. The US Coast Guard said it has not yet identified the source of the noises.

What's the state of the search now?

Coast guard officials said they remained "hopeful" as fresh assets joined the search, but the challenge of rescuing the crew alive appears increasingly formidable.

The five people on board the Titan, when it set off early last Sunday, had only a four-day supply of oxygen.

However, Richard Garriott de Cayeux, president of Explorers Club, a New York-based organisation engaged in searching for the lost sub, exhorted those following the situation to not lose hope, tweeting: "Not accurate final conclusion! 1) The French 6km ROVs [remotely operated vessels] will likely attempt to find and push-attach a lift cable. 2) The Navy FADOSS deep recovery crane will try to scoop it up, without crushing it. 3) if the crew survives long enough, and they are surely conserving air, the Magellan has a manipulator arm to attach lift cable. Stay hopeful!"

So far, ships and planes have searched 10,000 square miles (around 20,000 sq km) of surface water — roughly the size of Slovenia — to find the vessel to a depth of some 400 nautical miles (740 km), off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

The rescuers deployed two remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) capable of searching under the water and one surface vessel with sonar capability after a Canadian P-3 aircraft detected sounds possibly coming from the Titan.

The 21-foot (6.5 m) tourist submersible lost communication with its mothership less than two hours into its trip. It is unclear what the problem may have been.

Two more robots have been deployed to search the Titan, according to Live Mint report.

Reuters reports a debris field has discovered, as per the US Coast Guard, near the Titanic by remotely operated vehicle in the search area.

Who is on board the Titan?

The five passengers include a British adventurer, a French diver, a Pakistani father and son, and the founder of OceanGate Expeditions, the company that operated the tour to the Titanic wreckage.

Prominent Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman were on board the vessel in the North Atlantic, their family said in a statement. Dawood is the vice-chairman of one of the largest conglomerates in Pakistan, Engro Corporation, which has stakes in fertilisers, vehicle manufacturing, energy and digital technologies.

British billionaire Hamish Harding is also among the passengers, according to a social media post from a family member. Harding had earlier posted about his expedition on Instagram that he was proud to join OceanGate's Titanic mission.

OceanGate's founder and CEO Stockton Rush was also later confirmed by the company to be on board. Strikingly, according to an NYT report, Rush's wife is a descendant of two people who survived the sinking of the Titanic itself.

Additionally, a French government source said that one of those on board was a French national, 77-year-old French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

OceanGate Expeditions charges US$ 250,000 for a place on the submersible.

With DW inputs; figures in the article have been updated at 10:25 pm

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

Published: 22 Jun 2023, 4:08 PM