U.S. and Canadian rescue teams were searching Monday for a submersible carrying five people to the wreckage site of the Titanic after the submarine vanished deep in the Atlantic Ocean with four days’ or less worth of survival capability.
The U.S. Coast Guard in Boston is leading the search for the missing watercraft, which the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said was reported overdue Sunday night about 435 miles south of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Rear Adm. John Mauger, commander of the First Coast Guard District, said two aircraft each from the U.S. and Canada were involved in the search, along with a commercial ship, and that further assets will be added as the pursuit continues into the night.
The operation’s location − about 900 miles east of Cape Cod and up to 13,000 feet deep − complicates the task, as does the need to look both on the surface of the water and below, he said.
“It is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area,” Mauger said at a news conference, “but we are deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board.”
Contact lost with five crew members
The Coast Guard tweeted that the 21-foot submersible named “Titan,” which left from St. John’s, began its dive Sunday morning. The Polar Prince, the Canadian ship supporting the watercraft, lost contact with it about an hour and 45 minutes later.
OceanGate Expeditions, a Washington-based deep-sea exploration company, confirmed in a statement that it owned the submersible − a vessel in the submarine family but smaller and less self-sufficient than the classic military sub.
The company’s expeditions to the Titanic wreck site include archaeologists and marine biologists. OceanGate also brings people who pay to come along, known as “mission specialists.”
They take turns operating sonar equipment and performing other tasks in the five-person submersible. The Coast Guard said Monday there was one pilot and four “mission specialists” aboard.
“We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to reestablish contact with the submersible,” OceanGate said. “We are working toward the safe return of the crewmembers.”
Based on the company’s information, Mauger said the submersible has a 96-hour emergency sustainment capability, which would include oxygen and fuel. “So we anticipate that there’s somewhere between 70 and the full 96 hours available at this point,” he said.
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British tourist on board
OceanGate adviser David Concannon told The Associated Press the company lost contact with the submersible Sunday morning.
Concannon, who said he planned to go on the dive but had to cancel because of a matter regarding another client, said officials are rushing to get to the site a remotely operated vehicle that can reach a depth of 20,000 feet. The Titanic wreckage is believed to lie 12,500 feet deep.
Action Aviation said its company chairman, British businessman Hamish Harding, was one of the travelers on board. The experienced adventurer went into space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket last June.
“Every attempt is being made for a rescue mission,” Mark Butler, the company’s managing director, told the AP. “There is still plenty of time to facilitate a rescue mission. There is equipment on board for survival in this event. We’re all hoping and praying he comes back safe and sound.”
Richard Garriott, president of the Explorers Club − a New York-based group that supports scientific exploration − said he saw Harding a week ago and “his excitement was palpable.”
“I know he was looking forward to conducting research at the site,” Garriott wrote in a letter to members. “We all join in the fervent hope that the submersible is located as quickly as possible and the crew is safe.”
Titanic facts: When did it sink? How many people died?
On April 14, 1912, the Titanic collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. On April 15, at about 2:20 a.m., the ship sank.
More than 1,500 people died on the Titanic. Of the roughly 2,200 people aboard the ship, only 706 survived.
The majority of the people killed were members of the crew and third-class passengers. There were 710 deaths in the third class and 700 deaths among the crew.
How many people died on the Titanic?:Facts about the death toll and the survivors
Tourists added for expeditions
In 2021, OceanGate Expeditions began what it expected to become an annual voyage to the wreckage. The company had said it would include about 40 paying tourists to the team of archaeologists and marine biologists on the trips.
The initial group of tourists spent $100,000 to $150,000 apiece.
Contributing: The Associated Press