Oxygen Wanes in Titanic-Wreck Submersible as Search Expands

The search for a diving vessel that was headed to the wreck of the Titanic has shifted underwater after air efforts failed to find the craft, which has five people onboard and is running out of oxygen.

(Bloomberg) — The search for a diving vessel that was headed to the wreck of the Titanic has shifted underwater after air efforts failed to find the craft, which has five people onboard and is running out of oxygen. 

The US Coast Guard and the Canadian Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, have been conducting surface search missions overhead in the North Atlantic since Monday afternoon. OceanGate Expeditions, the operator of the mission, is leading underwater search efforts because of its knowledge of the site, Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger said. 

“We’re working very closely with them to prioritize our underwater search efforts and get equipment there that can be helpful to the search,” Mauger said on NBC’s Today show Tuesday.

The submersible vessel was designed to have an oxygen supply of as much as 96 hours in case of an emergency, according to the Coast Guard. Mauger said Monday afternoon they probably had as little as 70 hours. 

The US Coast Guard received a call Sunday from the submersible’s command ship, the Polar Prince, saying it lost contact with the vessel about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, according to Lt. Samantha Corcoran, a Coast Guard spokesperson in Boston. A C-130 plane with radar capability was dispatched to search the area Sunday, and was joined Monday by a Canadian P-8 Poseidon, an aircraft designed for anti-submarine warfare. 

“We’re focused on the search and hoping to safely locate all five individuals,” Corcoran said.

OceanGate Expeditions said in a statement it was “exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely.”

The search is receiving “extensive assistance” from several government agencies and deep-sea companies in trying to reestablish contact with the missing submersible, OceanGate said. 

The company’s missing submersible, the Titan, carries a pilot and four crew to a maximum depth of 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) and can monitor their health in real time. The system provides “early warning detection for the pilot with enough time to arrest the descent and safely return to surface,” according to OceanGate’s website.

The Titan is 6.7 meters long and is made of carbon fiber and titanium.

Among those missing is Hamish Harding, chairman of Action Aviation, according to Mark Butler, managing director of the Dubai-based aircraft brokerage. In a Twitter post Sunday, the company said “the sub had a successful launch and Hamish is currently diving.”

Two other members of the crew, Engro Corp. Vice Chairman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, are from one of Pakistan’s most prominent business families. A statement from the Dawood family said there was little information about what had happened.

According to several newspapers including the Australian, Stockton Rush, founder and chief executive officer of OceanGate, and French pilot Paul-Henry Nargeolet, are also on board. The company didn’t reply to an email seeking to confirm those details.

Harding posted on social media two days ago that the area was experiencing its worst weather in 40 years.

“A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow,” he wrote. “This mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023.” 

The guests pay $250,000, according to the New York Times, which first reported the rescue operation. 

OceanGate says it offers 10-day expeditions to the Titanic site, providing “qualified explorers” the opportunity to join as mission specialists, surveying the wreckage and documenting the sunken vessel’s condition, as well as flora and fauna inhabiting the wreck site. The fees underwrite their training and the participation of the science team exploring the ship that sank in 1912 on its maiden transatlantic voyage after hitting an iceberg. 

Everett, Washington-based OceanGate ran expeditions to explore the wreck in 2021 and 2022, according to its website. A photo of a submersible and the Titanic dive operations was posted on its Twitter feed on June 1.

–With assistance from Faseeh Mangi.

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