The five-person tourist submersible that was reported missing while on an exploration trip to the wreck of the Titanic is now believed to have been lost, according to an announcement by the Coast Guard and statements from the company.
OceanGate Expedition’s submersible, known as Titan, lost contact on Sunday morning about an hour and 45 minutes after it departed from its launch ship, the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince, according to the Coast Guard. The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards participated in the search with the assistance of vessels in the area of the Titanic wreck located about 370 miles south-by-southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and 900 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
On Thursday, the Coast Guard reported that a "debris field" was detected on the ocean floor in the search area by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from the Canadian vessel Horizon Arctic. The Coast Guard indicated at a press conference that the debris, some of which was found about 1600 feet from the Titanic's bow on the seafloor, was consistent with a catastrophic loss of the sub's pressure chamber.
OceanGate released a statement that read in part: "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 know."
The tragic findings come after the Coast Guard reported that a Canadian P-3 patrol aircraft "detected underwater noises in the search area" on Wednesday, which Carl Hartsfield of the Woods Hole Oceanographic referred to as "banging noises" – although those sounds weren't confirmed to be the sub.
Info about the sub
OceanGate’s website states that the Titan submersible can accommodate five people aboard, including one crew member to pilot the submersible and four "mission specialists." The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed after the search began that five people were aboard the vessel.
The company used the sub for research and commercial missions, in addition to exploratory missions with tourists who pay up to $250,000 apiece to see the Titanic’s final resting place. Titan was on its fifth expedition to the Titanic this year.
According to the company, the sub had life support capabilities that could last up to 96 hours for a crew of 5 barring a catastrophic failure.
The Titan was designed to handle depths of up to 4,000 meters, or 13,123 feet, which is necessary to reach the Titanic which lies on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean at a depth of about 12,500 feet.
Its pressure hull was made of carbon fiber and titanium, giving the submersible a total weight of about 21,000 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,510 pounds.
OceanGate wrote on its website that Titan utilizes "proprietary Real Time Hull Health Monitoring (RTM) systems" that provided an "unparalleled safety feature that assesses the integrity of the hull throughout every dive."
Titan had a top speed of about 3 knots and the process of descending to the depths of the Titanic wreck, exploring, and ascending back to the surface could take eight hours or more.
A video game-like controller with buttons, joysticks and gamepads operated the Titan. Backup controllers were kept aboard the vessel, OceanGate founder Stockton Rush said in a December 2022 report by CBS Sunday Morning. The submersible had no onboard GPS system and took directions from the surface vessel it launched from.
The submersible has been described as experimental. In the CBS report, correspondent David Pogue read from a waiver prior to accompanying other passengers on a dive in the submersible.
Pogue said the form referred to Titan as, "An experimental submersible vessel that has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body and could result in physical injury, disability, emotional trauma or death."
The initial attempt to find the Titanic on Pogue’s trip was scrubbed due to poor weather and high seas. A second trip was thwarted by a launch malfunction, while the crew and surface vessel were unable to locate the wreck on the third effort before successfully observing the Titanic on their fourth try.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.