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Panic as Titanic tourist submersible goes missing with search under way

A large-scale search and rescue operation is currently underway in the mid-Atlantic following the disappearance of a tourist submarine during a dive to the wreck of the Titanic.

The US Coast Guard reported that contact with the small submarine was lost approximately one hour and forty-five minutes into its dive. OceanGate, the tour firm operating the submarine, stated that every possible option is being explored to rescue the five individuals on board.

Tickets for this eight-day trip, which includes dives to the Titanic wreck at a depth of 3,800 meters (12,500 feet), cost $250,000 (£195,000). The rescue operation is being conducted with the assistance of government agencies, the US and Canadian navies, and commercial deep-sea companies.

The operation is coordinated from Boston, Massachusetts, even though the Titanic wreck is located about 435 miles (700 kilometers) south of St John’s, Newfoundland.

The missing submarine is believed to be OceanGate’s Titan submersible, a vehicle of truck size with a capacity for five people. Typically, it carries a four-day emergency oxygen supply. Rear Adm John Mauger of the US Coast Guard stated during a press conference that they estimate there is between 70 and 96 hours of available time at this point.

The search efforts involve two aircraft, a submarine, and sonar buoys, but the remote location of the search area presents challenges to the operation.

Rear Adm Mauger expressed that the rescue teams were deeply invested in the mission and were making every effort to ensure the safe return of those on board. Among the individuals on the missing submarine is 58-year-old British billionaire businessman and explorer, Hamish Harding, according to his family.

Prior to the incident, Harding had shared on social media his pride in being part of the mission to explore the Titanic wreck.

He mentioned the challenging winter conditions in Newfoundland and anticipated that this would likely be the only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023. In a later post, he mentioned a weather window opening up and their plans to attempt a dive the following day.

OceanGate, the company operating the submersible, stated that their primary focus was on the well-being of the crew members and their families. They expressed gratitude for the extensive assistance received from various government agencies and deep-sea companies in their efforts to establish contact with the submersible.

The eight-day trip offered by OceanGate is described as an extraordinary opportunity to step outside of everyday life and discover something truly remarkable. The company’s website mentions an ongoing expedition and two more planned for June 2024.

Typically, the submersible carries a pilot, three paying guests, and a designated “content expert.” Departing from St John’s in Newfoundland, each full dive to the Titanic wreck, including the descent and ascent, reportedly takes approximately eight hours.

OceanGate owns three submersibles, with the Titan being the only one capable of reaching the depths required to access the Titanic wreckage.

Weighing 23,000 lbs (10,432 kg), the Titan can reach depths of up to 13,100 ft and provides 96 hours of life support for a crew of five.

The vessel called the Polar Prince, responsible for transporting the submersibles to the wreckage site, was involved in the expedition, as confirmed by its owner.

David Pogue, a CBS reporter who had previously traveled in the Titan submersible, provided insight into the challenges faced by both the submersible and land crews in the current situation.

He explained that communication with the vessel was not possible underwater, as GPS and radio signals do not function in that environment. The support ship can exchange short text messages with the submersible when directly above it, but those messages are now going unanswered.

Pogue highlighted that the passengers inside the submersible are sealed in by external bolts, making it impossible to escape without assistance from the outside. Even if the submersible were to rise to the surface, the passengers cannot exit without the crew unlocking it from the outside.

The Titanic, famously known as the largest ship of its time, sank after colliding with an iceberg during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912. The tragic event resulted in the loss of over 1,500 lives out of the 2,200 passengers and crew on board.

Since its discovery in 1985, the wreckage of the Titanic has been extensively explored. The wreck is divided into two parts, the bow and the stern, separated by a distance of about 2,600 feet. Surrounding the broken vessel is a vast debris field.

In recent times, a comprehensive digital scan of the wreck was created using deep-sea mapping techniques. This scan provides a detailed representation of the ship’s scale and even captures minute details like the serial number on one of the propellers.

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