Coast Guard searching for submersible lost near Titanic wreck

Search efforts are trying to locate Titan on the surface and underwater.
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Screenshot of Titan, a privately owned submersible that went missing on June 18 while exploring the Titanic's wreck. (OceanGate Expeditions video)

The Coast Guard is searching for Titan, a privately owned submersible that went missing on Sunday with five people onboard while exploring the wreck of the Titanic.

The submarine could have up to 40 hours of oxygen left, said Coast Guard Capt. Jamie Frederick, response coordinator for the 1st  Coast Guard District.

So far, search efforts have been unable to locate Titan despite searching an area 7,600 square miles, an area larger than the size Connecticut, Frederick said during a news conference on Tuesday.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship John Cabot and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore are headed to the scene and a commercial vessel has sent a remote underwater vehicle to Titan’s last known position, Frederick told reporters.

Frederick did not answer directly when asked if there is enough time to carry out an underwater rescue if Titan is located before its oxygen supply runs out.

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“Right now, all of our efforts are focused on finding the sub,” Frederick said. “What I will tell you is: We have a group of our nation’s best experts and the unified command, and if we get to that point, those experts will be looking at what the next course of action is.”

The Navy is sending experts and a Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System, which is capable of recovering small vessels from underwater, to support search and rescue efforts, a service spokesperson said on Tuesday. The experts and equipment are expected to arrive on Tuesday night in St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada, which is roughly 400 miles from Titanic’s wreck site.

Two U.S. Coast Guard C-130s, a Canadian P-8 Poseidon and P-3 Aurora, and three commercial vessels have already taken part in search efforts, according to the Coast Guard.

An HC-130J Combat King II from the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing also helped look for the missing Titan on Monday, said Nahaku McFadden, a spokeswoman for the National Guard Bureau.

Titan’s mothership lost contact with the submersible on Sunday morning about one hour and forty-five minutes into its dive, the Coast Guard tweeted on Monday.

“The location of the search is approximately 900 miles east of Cape Cod in a water depth of roughly 13,000 feet,” U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger, told reporters on Monday. “It is a remote area, and it is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area, but we are deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people onboard.”

Search efforts involve looking for Titan on the surface and using sonar to listen for any traces of the submersible up to a depth of 13,000 feet, said Mauger, commander of the First Coast Guard District.

“Right now, our capability is limited to sonar buoys and listening for sounds, but we are working very hard to increase the capability,” Mauger said.

Titan’s hatch is bolted shut from the outside, so if the vessel has managed to surface, the five people still need rescuers to get them out of the submersible.

OceanGate Expeditions, the company that owns and operates Titan, has told the Coast Guard that the vessel is designed to have up to 96 hours of oxygen onboard in case of emergencies, Mauger said.

“We’re making the best use of every moment of that time to locate the vessel,” Mauger said. “We anticipate that there is somewhere between 70 to the full 96 hours [of oxygen] available at this point.”

The Coast Guard is reaching out to experts in the U.S. Navy, the Canadian military, and private industry in case it needs to conduct an underwater rescue of Titan’s passengers, Mauger said.

Titan went missing with a pilot and four “mission specialists” aboard, said Mauger, who declined to identify any of the people on the vessel.  

The term “mission specialists” refer to passengers, who take turns operating the submersible’s sonar and other equipment during dives. Media outlets have reported that the Titan’s passengers include billionaire Hamish Harding, who holds three Guinness World Records, along with British businessman Shahzada Dawood, one of Pakistan’s richest men, and Dawood’s son Suleman.

“We’ve been in touch with additional commercial vessels that are operating in the area as well as initiating the movement of additional Canadian Coast Guard assets and U.S. Coast Guard surface assets into the area over the course of the next couple of days,” Mauger said.

UPDATE: 06/20/2023; this story was updated with comments from Coast Guard Capt. Jamie Frederick and a Navy spokesperson.

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