Now that the world knows what happened to the Titan, the submersible that disappeared on Sunday during a dive to view the wreck of the RMS Titanic, officials are turning their attention to finding out how and why the ship apparently imploded, killing everyone on board. .
Thursday’s discovery of chunks of the Titan on the ocean floor effectively ended a rescue operation that had attracted much of the world’s attention. The U.S. Coast Guard, which led the search, would now be « focused on documenting the scene, » Rear Admiral John Mauger said at a news conference on Thursday.
On Friday, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada announced who was launching an investigation into the disaster. The council is involved because the vessel that brought the Titan to the scene and put it into the water, the MV Polar Prince, is Canadian.
A team of investigators will gather intelligence and conduct interviews in coordination with other agencies, the council said.
The Titan’s fate was not known until Thursday morning, in part because it took days to transport remotely operated vehicles that could reach Titanic’s depth to the site more than two miles below the ocean’s surface. Once the vehicles were deployed, debris from the Titan was spotted within hours, in an area approximately 1,600 feet from the Titanic’s bow, according to Admiral Mauger.
Experts said the remote vehicles will likely be used to continue to survey the site and recover some items. But parts of the stricken submersible will likely be left on the ocean floor indefinitely, they said. It is unclear whether human remains have been seen or can be recovered.
« We should expect on-site ROVs to identify as much as possible and also surface as much as possible, » said Jennifer K. Waters, dean of the State University of New York Maritime College.
They wouldn’t be able to collect everything on the ocean floor, he said, but they could bring back some materials that would be useful in investigations.
If the implosion occurred well above the ocean floor, fragments from the submersible could have spread over a large area, said James G. Bellingham, a professor of exploratory robotics at Johns Hopkins University. « They will have to look for Titanic debris in the Titanic debris at the bottom, » he added.
But the ocean is so deep there that « salvaging anything is a huge and expensive undertaking, » said Mike Jarvis, president of the American Salvage Association, an industry group for marine salvage workers.
The military tends to invest resources in recovering its sunken assets, Jarvis said, but recovery efforts for private vessels like the Titan would likely be limited by the expense. He estimated that a Titan recovery mission could cost $250,000 a day.
The Navy sent a lift mechanism for underwater heavy objects, called the Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System, to the site of the disappearance this week to help with search and recovery efforts. But it’s not clear if, or when, the system could be used.
The Titan, a 22-foot-long tube-shaped vessel with a single porthole, was owned by OceanGate. The company’s CEO, Stockton Rush, was piloting the submersible when it went missing.
« The entire OceanGate family is deeply grateful for the countless men and women from multiple organizations in the international community who have accelerated wide-ranging resources and worked so hard on this mission, » the company said in a statement, adding that its employees were « exhausted and deeply saddened by this loss. »
OceanGate did not answer questions about the recovery efforts or investigation, or whether any type of data logger, such as an aircraft’s black box, had been present on the Titan.
The Coast Guard and Navy did not immediately respond to questions on Friday about the future course of recovery operations.
« I know there are a lot of questions about how, why, when did this happen, » Admiral Mauger said Thursday, adding that authorities had the same questions. « This will, I’m sure, be the focus of the future review. »