In an unfortunate and unprecedented occurrence in the deep-sea exploration community, a submersible craft operated by the tour firm OceanGate, dedicated to conducting tours of the Titanic wreckage, has been lost in the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean after being confirmed a suffering a “Catastrophic Implosion” by the US Coast Guard.
The craft, known as the Titan submersible, was carrying its crew of five on board when contact was lost about 1 hour 45mins into a dive down to the Titanic wreck.
OceanGate, a pioneer in underwater exploration, facilitates extraordinary $250,000-per-seat expeditions to the Titanic wreck, located 3,800 meters (approximately 12,500 feet) beneath the surface of the Atlantic.
Since contact was lost on Sunday, 18th June, a major search and rescue operation was conducted with the assistance of various government agencies and deep-sea firms.
UPDATE: Thurs 22nd
OceanGate now believes that the people onboard the company’s submersible “have tragically been lost” as a result of what the US Coast Guard says was a “catastrophic” implosion of the pressure chamber.
The company’s full statement issued Thursday afternoon reads:
“We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost.
“These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans. Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.
“This is an extremely sad time for our dedicated employees who are exhausted and grieving deeply over this loss. The entire OceanGate family is deeply grateful for the countless men and women from multiple organizations of the international community who expedited wide-ranging resources and have worked so very hard on this mission. We appreciate their commitment to finding these five explorers, and their days and nights of tireless work in support of our crew and their families.
“This is a very sad time for the entire explorer community, and for each of the family members of those lost at sea. We respectfully ask that the privacy of these families be respected during this most painful time.”
Rescue teams were frantically racing to find the missing Titan submersible on Thursday as the estimated air supply in the sub was expected to run out by 8am EST / 1pm UK.
The US Coast Guard earlier in the day had tweeted that a debris field had been found “within the search area by an ROV near the Titanic.”
A debris field was discovered within the search area by an ROV near the Titanic. Experts within the unified command are evaluating the information. 1/2
— USCGNortheast (@USCGNortheast) June 22, 2023
During a press conference this afternoon, US Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger, the First Coast Guard District commander, confirmed that the debris was indeed from the Titan:
“An ROV from the vessel Horizon Arctic discovered the tailcone of the Titan submersible approximately 1600ft (488m) from the bow of Titanic on the sea floor. The ROV subsequently found additional debris. In consultation with experts from the unified command, the debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber.”
The sub disappeared on Sunday about an hour and 45 mins into its journey down to the Titanic wreckage, which sits at a depth of 12,500ft.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the five aboard the submersible may have died soon after it began to descend toward the Titanic.
According to a statement provided by the US Navy to the Journal and the Washington Post:
“The U.S. Navy conducted an analysis of acoustic data and detected an anomaly consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the Titan submersible was operating when communications were lost.
“While not definitive, this information was immediately shared with the Incident Commander to assist with the ongoing search and rescue mission. This information was considered with the compilation of additional acoustic data provided by other partners and the decision was made to continue our mission as a search and rescue and make every effort to save the lives on board.”
Prior to the debris discovery, Air-traffic controllers asked civil aircraft overflying the northwestern Atlantic to watch for any evidence of the Titan craft.
Captain Yohana Cohen, who flies Boeing 787 long-haul aircraft for the Israeli airline El Al, tweeted: “New York control asking for help looking for the missing submarine.”
New York control asking for help looking for the missing submarine #aviation #titan #titanic #oceangate @aviationbrk @airlivenet @FlightEmergency @ItayBlumental @gotomichal @DaphnaLiel @kclepley @GinieSigonney pic.twitter.com/2TkASuCHnO
— Captain Cohen (@cohen_yohana74) June 22, 2023
UPDATE: Weds 21st
The Coast Guard said in a brief statement on Twitter that underwater noises had been detected by a Canadian P-3 aircraft in the search area.
Some of the remote-operated vehicles involved in the search had been relocated in an attempt to determine the origin of the sounds. Those searches had so far “yielded negative results” but were continuing, the statement said.
These recordings have been shared with the US Navy for analysis “to help guide future search efforts,” the Coast Guard said.
Canadian P-3 aircraft detected underwater noises in the search area. As a result, ROV operations were relocated in an attempt to explore the origin of the noises. Those ROV searches have yielded negative results but continue. 1/2
— USCGNortheast (@USCGNortheast) June 21, 2023
The Coast Guard also announced that a “unified command” had been established consisting of the US and Canadian Coast Guards, US Navy and OceanGate Expeditions.
While US Coast Guard Captain Jamie Frederick, the service’s response coordinator, said they don’t know exactly what the noises were, the good news was that the underwater ROVs had been moved to the area where the noises were heard.
“We hope that when we’re able to get additional ROVs over there in the morning, the intent will be to continue to search in those areas where the noises were detected.”
The Canadian Coast Guard boat John Cabot, a vessel with sonar capabilities, arrived on-scene Wednesday morning along with commercial vessels Skandi Vinland and the Atlantic Merlin. A US Coast Guard C-130 crew also arrived on scene to continue searching.
As of Wednesday evening, the following additional assets were en route:
- Canadian CGS Ann Harvey
- Canadian CGS Terry Fox
- Motor Vessel Horizon Arctic (ROV)
- French Research Vessel L’Atalante (ROV)
- His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Glace Bay (mobile decompression chamber and medical personnel)
- Air National Guard C-130
- ROV from Magellan
Additionally, the US Navy is sending subject matter experts and a Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System (FADOSS), a motion-compensated lift system designed to provide reliable deep ocean lifting capacity for the recovery of large, bulky and heavy undersea objects such as aircraft or small vessels, from the Navy Supervisor of Salvage. Personnel and equipment are scheduled to arrive in St. John’s, Newfoundland on Wednesday evening.
You can watch Wednesday’s briefing here.
— USCGNortheast (@USCGNortheast) June 21, 2023
On Tuesday, the president of the Explorers Club sent club members a letter that said sonar in the search area had “detected potential ‘tapping sounds’ implying that the crew may be alive and signaling” at 2 a.m. local time.
In a statement posted to Twitter, the club president Richard Garriott said that “likely signs of life have been detected at the site.” He added that they were working for approval to deploy a remote-operated vehicle capable of descending to depths of 6,000 meters, or nearly 20,000 feet.
Message from President Richard Garriott Regarding the Ongoing Titanic Search and Rescue Mission pic.twitter.com/ec7YX5VQCY
— ExplorersClub (@ExplorersClub) June 21, 2023
One of the five people aboard the Titan, the British explorer Hamish Harding, is a founding member and current board member of the club.
UPDATE: Tues 20th
The search continues for the five people inside the Titan sub continues with a race against time as the US Coast Guard confirmed on Tuesday afternoon at a press conference in Boston that the sub is likely to have “roughly 40 hours of air left”.
Capt. Jamie Frederick said that crews were “doing everything possible” as part of a “complex search effort.” But so far, he said, those efforts “have not yielded any results.”
With the search area expanded to cover more than just around the Titanic dive site, and the remoteness of the location – about 900 miles of Cape Cod in Massachusets – makes the search even more complicated.
“Logistically speaking, it’s hard to bring assets to bear,” he added. “It takes time.”
You can view Tuesday’s news briefing here.
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, in a late afternoon statement, said:
“U. S. Transportation Command is supporting the search effort with (3) C-17 aircraft that are transporting commercial, rescue-related cargo and equipment from Buffalo, NY to St Johns, Newfoundland. As of 4:30 pm eastern time today, all three aircraft have departed Buffalo, and the last aircraft is scheduled to land at St. John shortly.”
All five of the passengers on board the Titan have now been confirmed:
- Hamish Harding, a 58-year-old British businessman and explorer,
- Shahzada Dawood a 48-year-old British businessman
- and his son, Suleman Dawood, 19
- 77-year-old French explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet
- Stockton Rush, the CEO, and founder of OceanGate Expeditions, has been confirmed on Tuesday evening to be aboard by OceanGate
UPDATE: Mon 19th
On Monday evening, a Canada’s Coast Guard spokeswoman said that a military aircraft and a Coast Guard ship had been deployed to help search for the missing submersible. The ship, Kopit Hopson 1752, was off eastern Newfoundland, and headed for the search area.
The US Coast Guard said in a statement:
“A Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, C-130 Hercules aircraft, as well as a Canadian P8 aircraft equipped with underwater sonar capability, are currently searching for the missing submersible.”
The US Coast Guard has deployed two C-130 aircraft, and the Canadian government has a C-130 and a P-8 submarine hunter aircraft deployed.
Another C-130 aircraft from the New York National Guard will join the search on Monday evening, according to US Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger, commander of the First Coast Guard District headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.
Mauger confirmed during a late Monday afternoon briefing that there were five people on board the submersible: one pilot and four “mission specialists.”
He further said:
“We’re working very closely at this point to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can do to locate the submersible and rescue those onboard.”
He said that rescuers are searching an area 900 miles/1,448km east of Cape Cod, roughly 13,000 feet/3,962m deep.
“It is a remote area, 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,” Mauger added.
Going into the evening, searchers will continue to fly aircraft and move additional vessels into the area, according to the admiral.
“In this remote part of our search and rescue responsibility, oftentimes we rely on commercial operators to be the first vessel on scene and so we’ve been in touch with commercial vessels who are operating in the area as well as initiating the movement of additional Canadian Coast Guard assets and US Coast Guard surface assets into the area over the course of the next couple of days.
“Adding to the complexity of this case the fact that this was a submersible vessel and so we need to make sure that we’re looking both on the surface for the vessel if it had surfaced back to the water level as well as underwater.”
Watch the full briefing here.
The Titan Submersible
The Titan submersible is a significant part of these daring expeditions, capable of reaching depths of up to 4,000 meters and equipped with a life support system to sustain a crew of five for 96 hours.
The Titan, a truck-sized submersible, usually carries a pilot, three paying guests, and a content expert, providing a comprehensive and immersive experience for the expedition participants. The vessel weighs 10,432 kg (23,000 lbs) and typically has enough oxygen to last four days, although it is cramped for long durations.
Here's a photo of that configuration aboard the Titan Titanic-bound ship from another PDF buried on their website.
Similar to the diagram, only one person can stretch their legs out pic.twitter.com/OSbzQ9hyr6
— Ben Goggin (@BenjaminGoggin) June 20, 2023
The disappearance of such a robustly equipped craft underlines deep-sea exploration’s inherent risks and challenges.
The Titanic, once the largest ship of its time, hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage in 1912, resulting in the loss of more than 1,500 lives out of the 2,200 passengers and crew onboard. Its wreckage, discovered in 1985, lies in two parts separated by about 800 meters (2,600 feet), with a vast debris field surrounding the broken vessel. The wreck has been extensively explored since its discovery, with a full-sized digital scan created just last month using deep-sea mapping technology.
As the search and rescue operation continues, our thoughts are with the crew members and their families during this challenging time.
Note: This is a breaking news item. Some details about the time the contact was lost and the identity of the crew members were not available at the time of writing. Further information will be shared as they become available.