Missing submarine while visiting the wreck of the Titanic: 3-4 days of oxygen left, urgent search and rescue

Time is running out for the five adventurers inside the missing Titanic tourism sub – as it emerged there may only be two deep sea vessels on the planet with a fighting chance of rescuing them before their oxygen runs out on Thursday.

US and Canadian ships and planes have swarmed the area about 900 miles east of Cape Cod but are yet to find them as the search enters a third day today.

Officials are racing to get a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to search for Titan – the name of the Titanic submersible. These can reach a depth of 20,000ft and are connected to a ship via an ‘umbilical cord’, allowing the pilot to control it from above using thrusters and relay images from sonar and camera systems. Some can lift objects from the sea bed.

The only likely rescue would come from an un-crewed vehicle – essentially an underwater drone. The US Navy have one they used to salvage a crashed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in about 12,400 feet in the South China Sea in early 2022. The US Navy also has a Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System (FADOSS), which can recover items using a winch from 21,000ft depths.

There is also a privately owned two-man sub called Limiting Factor. In 2019 the explorer Victor Vescovo used it to become the first person to reach the deepest point in all five oceans.

Stephen McGinty, author of The Dive: The Untold Story of the World’s Deepest Submarine Rescue, told Sky News there is ‘no reason’ why crews could not use ‘a remote controlled vehicle’ to attach a rescue line to Titan.

He said: ‘It would take a long time, hours to get down to the bottom – and then attach, if they find it, a rescue line’. Mr McGinty says it will come down to whether they find the sub in time and what depth it is at.

Limiting Factor, a two man sub that is able to go to the depths where the Titan (pictured off South Georgia) could be. It has the record for going to the bottom of the world's five deepest ocean basins

Limiting Factor, a two man sub that is able to go to the depths where the Titan (pictured off South Georgia) could be. It has the record for going to the bottom of the world’s five deepest ocean basins

A U.S. Navy-owned research vessel, deploys the cable-controlled Undersea Recovery Vehicle (CURV-21) off the coast of Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. The CURV is designed to meet the U.S. Navy's deep ocean recovery requirements down to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet and helped recover a jet last year

A U.S. Navy-owned research vessel, deploys the cable-controlled Undersea Recovery Vehicle (CURV-21) off the coast of Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. The CURV is designed to meet the U.S. Navy’s deep ocean recovery requirements down to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet and helped recover a jet last year

Sonar buoys have been dropped into the Atlantic to listen for the Titan. Planes and ships with similar technology are also scanning the sea for any sign on the surface and down below, including any noise from the missing men banging on the hull or screaming for help – a key instruction given in the case of a deep sea emergency.

And nuclear submarines from Britain and the US could be sent. Today a new specialist ship is scanning the water. Deep Energy is searching the seafloor using cameras usually employed when laying pipes deep underwater.

But experts have said that even if the missing Titan is found on the sea bed – they are unlikely to be able to rescue the five people on board. Commander Ryan Ramsey, who served in the British Royal Navy’s submarine service for 23 years is less hopeful, and believes there is no chance of rescue.

And with no sign of the craft yet, the five Titanic tourists and adventurers inside face the double threat of dwindling oxygen and extreme cold at two miles below the surface. Experts believe the vessel has a maximum of 96 hours of life support, meaning that air in the sealed sub will run out at around lunchtime on Thursday.

Sonar buoys have been dropped into the Atlantic to listen for the Titan. Planes and ships with similar technology are also scanning the sea for any sign on the surface and down below, including any noise from the missing men banging on the hull or screaming for help – a key instruction given in the case of a deep sea emergency.

David Gallo, senior adviser for Strategic Initiatives, RMS Titanic, said it is now a ‘race against time’ to find the sub and save those inside. He said: ‘Where is it? Is it on the bottom, is it floating, is it mid-water? That is something that has not been determined yet. We will have to wait and see and hope for the best. The water is very deep — two miles plus. It’s like a visit to another planet, it’s not what people think it is. It is a sunless, cold environment and high pressure’.

Excited Instagram posts as they prepared to dive, then radio silence after 105 minutes and a final ‘ping’ over the Titanic before it vanished: How the Titan disappeared on Sunday

The final photos of the tiny underwater craft leaving the port in St. John's in Canada with the five crew members on board were revealed (pictured)

Billionaire Hamish Harding’s excited message just before the Titan dived thanks to a ‘weather window’

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Timeline: When the Titan vanished

Saturday 

7pm (US time): Hamish Harding posts about mission

Sunday

4am: Titan begins its dive off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada,

5.45am: Vessel loses contact with the surface

10am: Titan sends last distress signal

5.40pm: Boston coastguard contacted

9.15pm: Alert raised with Nova Scotia coastguard

Monday

The US Coast Guard said it has launched a sweeping search approximately 900 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, while the Canadian Coast Guard said it too is taking part in the effort with fixed wing aircraft and a ship.

‘We are deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board,’ US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger told reporters in Boston, where he was overseeing the operation.

Tuesday

The search and rescue operation, involving military aircraft 900 miles east of Cape Cod, was continuing on.

The US Coast Guard said the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince and 106 Rescue wing will continue to conduct surface searches alongside two US C-130 flights.

Billionaire Hamish Harding, who is on board, revealed on Sunday that the vessel was leaving from St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, with support ship the Polar Prince. He said that they planned to dive around 4am on Sunday morning, local time.

Before submerging, Mr Harding, 58, a British entrepreneur and explorer, had excitedly posted a message to social media about a ‘weather window’ opening up that would allow the group to dive after ‘the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years’. He promised: ‘More expedition updates to follow IF the weather holds!’

At 5.45am the last picture of the Titan was taken on the surface and it set sail. But less that two hours in, it lost contact with the Polar Prince.

But after an hour and 45 minutes into the eight-hour mission, at 5.45am, 350 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, contact was lost with the state-of-the-art craft.

The descent to the Titanic usually takes two hours. Once there, the explorers have several hours to look at the world’s most famous shipwreck. The ascent to the surface then takes around two hours.

But the Titan never surfaced and was reported ‘overdue’ on Sunday afternoon and the coastguard were informed by its mothership MV Polar Prince, which was waiting for them.

The Titan sends a ‘ping’ every 15 minutes to help give its location in the absence of GPS at huge depths. The last ping was sent at around 10am on Sunday, right above the Titanic. There has been no signal since.

The coastguard appear to have been contacted almost 12 hours later – at 9.15pm – but it is not yet clear why.

As well as Mr Harding, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, the French world-renowned explorer, is also on board. OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush is believed to be the third crew member.

Shahzada Dawood, 48, a UK-based board member of the Prince’s Trust charity, and his son Sulaiman Dawood, 19, were on board. They are heirs to the great Dawood business dynasty and amongst the richest people in Pakistan – although they live in Surrey, England.

Among those taking part in the expedition is billionaire Hamish Harding, CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai. He excitedly posted to social media about being there on Sunday

Among those taking part in the expedition is billionaire Hamish Harding, CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai. He excitedly posted to social media about being there on Sunday

French Navy veteran PH Nargeolet is  believed to be taking part in the expedition, though it's unclear if he is onboard the missing sub

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OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush is also believed to be onboard

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French Navy veteran PH Nargeolet (left) is believed to be taking part in the expedition, along with Stockton Rush (right), CEO of the OceanGate Expedition

Shahzada Dawood (pictured) and his son Sulaiman Dawood were on board the small underwater craft take paying tourists to view the famous wreck

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Shahzada Dawood (pictured) and his son Sulaiman Dawood were on board the small underwater craft take paying tourists to view the famous wreck

Sulaiman Dawood, 19, who is missing on board the submarine is pictured with his mother Christine

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Sulaiman Dawood, 19, who is missing on board the submarine is pictured with his mother Christine

There may only be TWO underwater vessels on Earth with a chance of completing the deepest undersea rescue mission ever 

The only likely rescue would come from an uncrewed vehicle — essentially an underwater drone.

The US Navy has one submarine rescue vehicle, although it can reportedly reach depths of just 2,000 feet.

For recovering objects off the sea floor in deeper water, the Navy relies on what it calls remote-operated vehicles, such as the one it used to salvage a crashed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in about 12,400 feet in the South China Sea in early 2022. That vehicle, called CURV-21, can reach depths of 20,000 feet.

Getting the right kind of equipment — such as a remote vehicle like the CURV-21 — to the site takes time, starting with getting it to a ship capable of delivering it to the site.

CURV 21 is a 6,400-pound Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that is designed to meet the US Navy's deep-water salvage requirements. It helped recover a Jet in the South China Sea

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CURV 21 is a 6,400-pound Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that is designed to meet the US Navy’s deep-water salvage requirements. It helped recover a Jet in the South China Sea

Dr Dawn Wright and CDR Victor Vescovo inside the control capsule of the submersible DSV Limiting Factor

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Dr Dawn Wright and CDR Victor Vescovo inside the control capsule of the submersible DSV Limiting Factor

Triton, an American manufacturer of deep-sea submersibles, has a two-person deep-sea model with a 3.5-inch Titanium Alloy hull that supports dives up to 16 hours long. It is called Limiting Factor.

The company says its submersible can reach the deepest point in the ocean in less than two and a half hours.

In 2019, the explorer Victor Vescovo used it to become the first person to reach the deepest point in all five oceans.

Sonar buoys, ships and military aircraft are combing sea: How are they searching for the missing sub and what can they use to rescue them?

US and Canadian ships and planes began swarming the area on Monday about 900 miles east of Cape Cod, some dropping sonar buoys that can monitor to a depth of 13,000 feet, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger said.

Canadian Boeing P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft will resume their surface and subsurface search today. The US Coast Guard have tasked two Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft with overflights.

‘We are deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board,’ Mauger said told reporters yesterday. ‘It is a remote area and it is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area’.

He said officials had asked commercial vessels to help too and that more help will arrive in the coming hours.

This includes a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to attached to a ship on the surface with an ‘umbilical cord’.  This is the only way of getting down to the Titanic to see if the Titan is there.

The 21ft submarine was seen being towed by the mothership MV Polar Prince out to sea to the wreckage site of the Titanic on Sunday

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The 21ft submarine was seen being towed by the mothership MV Polar Prince out to sea to the wreckage site of the Titanic on Sunday

Multiple C-130 aircraft are now assisting in the aerial search for the vessel, which has not been heard from since Sunday morning

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Multiple C-130 aircraft are now assisting in the aerial search for the vessel, which has not been heard from since Sunday morning

The Polar Prince is the expedition ship used to take tourists from Newfoundland out to the wreckage site. The sub is deployed once out at sea

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The Polar Prince is the expedition ship used to take tourists from Newfoundland out to the wreckage site. The sub is deployed once out at sea

A Canadian Coast Guard vessel and military aircraft are also assisting the search effort, which was being led by the US Coast Guard in Boston.

There are calls for the US and British navies to send nuclear submarines, but the UK Ministry of Defence has said this morning that the depths of water close to the Titanic ‘greatly exceed those at which the NATO submarine rescue system can safely operate’. Later Downing Street said the Navy is on standby and ‘ready to help’ in the operation led by the US.

David Gallo, senior adviser for Strategic Initiatives, says that the area that they are looking will be small, given the Titan mini-submarine only travels at around 2mph.

He said: ‘If it has gotten into trouble on the surface it might drift a bit, but on the bottom motoring — 2 miles an hour, something like that. So the search area should be small. It means that you can focus on a very tight area and bring your sonars in, cameras in, and whatever you need to do into that area to try to locate the sub,’ Gallo said. ‘So it’s not like looking for a huge area of the sea floor’.

However, the depth, and darkness of the water makes it very tricky indeed.

Eric Fusil, a submarine expert and associate professor at the University of Adelaide, said: ‘As there is no tether between the Titan and the support surface ship, the only way to communicate or detect from the surface is through the sea water’.

But he added that the depth of the Atlantic means that no GPS is available and radar will not work down to the Titanic.

He said that despite potential fog and waves on the Atlantic, they will be found very quickly of they are there.  But added that in the sea itself ‘spotlight or laser beams are absorbed within a few metres’ – making it very hard to see other than at close quarters.

Alistair Greig, a professor of marine engineering at University College London, said: ‘If it has gone down to the seabed and can’t get back up under its own power, options are very limited’.

He said that if the vessel is found, they would somehow have to get a ship with a two mile cable. But there are very few crafts, or pilots, that could bring that cable to the sea bed and successfully attach it to the Titan to haul it upwards,

‘While the submersible might still be intact, if it is beyond the continental shelf, there are very few vessels that can get that deep, and certainly not divers’, Mr Greig said.

The submarine has seven ways it can rise to the surface of the Atlantic.

Submersibles typically have something called a drop weight. Mr Greig said. ‘A mass they can release in the case of an emergency to bring them up to the surface using buoyancy’, he said. But the fact it is not bobbing on the waves already suggests it has not been deployed.

There are also hydraulic systems, carrying ‘roll weights’, that are controlled inside the submarine. These don’t require power either.

And if the people on board are unconscious there are weights with ‘fusible links’, which drop off after a prolonged period of time under water. There is also a giant airbag that can be inflated to provide buoyancy, making at least half a dozen ways that the vessel can rise to the surface in an emergency.

Did it spring a leak and implode – or was there a fire inside? What could have gone wrong with the Titan?

  • First: A major power cut: This would have caused instant loss of communication. Eric Fusil says that some submersibles have a backup source of energy – but it is not clear if the Titan had these – or if these also failed.
  • Second: A fire on board: A short circuit on the instruments or controls. This could knock out the systems. It could also release toxic fumes that could knock out the five people in the enclosed space.
  • Third: Flooding: If the hull failed due to the pressure at the depths close to the Titanic, the Titan would take on water. But the vessel does have sensors that should warn of this in advance. But if combined with a power failure, the ship could be doomed.
  • Fourth: A crash: The Titan could become trapped or entangled with debris of the Titanic on the floor of the Atlantic. There are very strong currents in the ocean – and it is possible the vessel could find itself in a situation where its path is blocked or it is trapped.

Naval experts warned the rescue mission in the ‘wild north Atlantic’ was extremely difficult. Former Rear Admiral Chris Parry told Sky News: ‘It’s very worrying. It could have become entangled in the wreckage of Titanic, we don’t know yet. The wreck site is a long way from anywhere.’

Steve Somlyody, a Florida-based senior research scientist told Fix News: ‘For there not to be any communications or any movement, indications are that something went critical.

The submersible, Titan, is seen moments before it descended on its current dive on Sunday

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The submersible, Titan, is seen moments before it descended on its current dive on Sunday

‘The pressure down there at 4,000 meters is pretty high. About 5,800 PSI at Titanic depth. If they had any kind of leak, it would lead to an implosion and it would happen in an instant, very immediately. You wouldn’t even know it happened.’

Former ABC science editor Michael Guillen revealed his own terrifying experience in 2000 when he became the first TV correspondent to get into a sub to visit the wreck – which sits two and half miles under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean off Newfoundland.

Dr Guillen said 30 minutes passed and the team were trying to dislodge the vessel by ‘moving it forward and backward, forward and backward’ to ‘rock us out of our stuck position’.

Banging on the hull and yelling to be heard on sonar: How ‘mission specialists’ on Titanic tourist trip are trained to deal with an emergency

File image of the Titan submersible that has gone missing in the Atlantic Ocean

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File image of the Titan submersible that has gone missing in the Atlantic Ocean

To be a ‘Mission Specialist’ on the Titan, no diving experience is necessary, according to CNN, who have unearthed an archived section of OceanGate’s website.

Applicants must be over 18, able to pay $250,000 for the trip and ‘be able to demonstrate basic strength, balance and flexibility’.

Previous diving experience is not required before joining an OceanGate expedition to visit the wreckage of the Titanic, an archived version of the operator’s website said.