A submersible with five people on board has been missing since Sunday after setting out to explore the site of the sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic. The vessel is thought to be supplied with oxygen for a few days.
An international team including the US and Canadian coast guards, commercial vessels, sonar buoys and aircraft was involved in the search.
Here’s what we know.
When and where did the submarine disappear?
The 22-foot carbon fiber and titanium boat called the Titan it was deployed by a Canadian expedition vessel, the MV Polar Prince, to travel nearly 13,000 feet to the wreck site off Newfoundland.
The vessel lost contact with the surface vessel an hour and 45 minutes after it began diving Sunday, the US Coast Guard said.
Who owns the ship and why was he diving?
OceanGate Expeditions, a private company, operates the submersible. For this trip, he partnered with the Marine Institute at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.
OceanGate arranges expeditions of up to nine days for tourists willing to pay a hefty price to travel in submersibles to wrecks and underwater canyons. Second the company websiteOceanGate also supplies manned submersibles for commercial projects and scientific research.
The company was founded by Stockton Rush, an aerospace engineer and pilot, who also serves as its chief executive officer.
OceanGate calls the Titan the world’s only manned submersible capable of taking five people down to 4,000 meters – or more than 13,100 feet – allowing it to reach nearly 50 percent of the world’s oceans. Images from the vessel show that people on board would have limited space to stand or sit.
The company has been taking people on tours of the Titanic site since 2021, and guests have paid $250,000 to travel to the wreck.
Who was on board?
There are five people in the boat. As of Tuesday morning, three of them had been identified: Hamish Harding, a British businessman and explorer, and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman.
Mr. Harding is a veteran of other extreme deep-sea dives and has flown into space on a mission organized by the rocket company Blue Origin. Mr. Dawood comes from one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families and is a vice president of Engro Corporation, a conglomerate that began as a fertilizer company.
Where exactly is the wreck of the Titanic?
Once the largest steamer in the world, the Titanic struck an iceberg four days into her maiden voyage in April 1912 and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. More than 1,500 people died.
It was discovered in pieces in 1985, about 400 miles off Newfoundland.
Researchers are scouring the sea.
The Coast Guard was coordinating with Canadian authorities and commercial vessels to help the search. Sonar buoys were deployed in the water and the expedition vessel was using sonar to try to locate the submersible.
Planes from the United States and Canada, along with surface vessels, were scanning the waves in case the submersible surfaced and lost communications, a US Coast Guard spokesman said.
But it is a very difficult quest.
A ship on its way to the Titanic faces overwhelming pressure during its long descent. At the ship’s resting place, the weight of the frozen ocean she pressed would have equaled that of a solid lead tower above her head that stood the height of the Empire State Building.
For search and rescue operations at sea, weather conditions, lack of night light, sea state and water temperature play an important role in finding and rescuing stricken sailors.
Saving people under the waves is even more difficult. Many underwater vehicles are equipped with an acoustic device that emits sounds that can be detected underwater by rescuers. It’s unclear if the Titan has one.
An additional danger could be that the ship gets stuck on a piece of wreckage, which could prevent it from returning to the surface.
If the submersible was at the bottom of the sea, the extreme depths would limit the possible means of a rescue. Divers wearing specialized equipment and breathing helium-rich air mixtures can safely reach depths of a few hundred feet below the surface before having to spend long decompression periods during an ascent. A couple of hundred feet deeper, no more sunlight will penetrate the water.
Typically, researchers and researchers searching such inky depths rely on advanced robots using remote-controlled systems of television, photography, and sonar mapping that can survive the crushing pressures and pierce through the darkness. But such exploratory work can be costly and frustrating.
« We’re doing everything we can, » said Rear Admiral John Mauger, a spokesman for the US Coast Guard.
The report was provided by William J. Broad, Emma Bubola, Amanda Holpuch, John Ismai, Jesus Jimenez, Victoria Kim, Salman Masud AND Alan Yuhas.