A British engineer who survived after his submarine sank 1,500ft off the coast of Ireland 50 years ago has a ‘horrible feeling that something might be seriously wrong’ on the missing Titanic tourist submersible.
Roger Mallinson, who was burying a telephone cable in the Celtic Sea seabed with his colleague Roger Chapman, described the case of the missing Titan sea vessel as ‘horrendous’ as he reflected on his own nightmare experience in 1973.
The missing OceanGate submersible has drawn parallels to the sunken Pisces III submarine – whose occupants were saved after an incredible 80-hour rescue operation that saw them lifted to safety with just 12 minutes of oxygen left.
To this day, it is the deepest successful underwater rescue in history. Speaking about the ongoing search for the 22-foot-long deep-sea vessel that went missing with five people on-board as it dove towards the Titanic shipwreck, Mallinson said: ‘It is horrendous.’
The now 85-year-old told Sky News: ‘I can’t understand why they haven’t transmitted some signal of some sort. I have a horrible feeling that something might be seriously wrong that they aren’t able to transmit a signal.
In 1973, Roger Mallinson (left), 35, and Roger Chapman, 28, had been imprisoned for 80 hours in their crippled mini-submersible Pisces III
Mallinson (pictured), now 85, described what its like being stuck in a submersible and voiced his concerns for those missing on the Titanic tourist sub
Divers begin to open the hatch of the miniature submarine Pisces III as she breaks water after being rescued
‘I would have thought a hammer on a bit of the hull somewhere would be a good transmitter and it would carry.’
Time is now running out for the five adventurers with their oxygen set to run out on Thursday – and with the group feared to have a one in 100 chance of survival at best. The Coast Guard said today that it may not be able to rescue the sub even if it can find it.
But well-wishers can take heart from the scarcely believable 1973 rescue of Mallinson and Chapman, whose mini-submarine plummeted to 1,575ft below the surface with 80 hours air after an accident 150 miles southwest of Cork, Ireland.
Their plunge prompted a huge international rescue operation which eventually saw them dragged to the service with just 12 minutes of oxygen left.
When asked whether he ever thought he wouldn’t make it out of the trapped submersible alive, Mr Mallinson said: ‘We certainly did [think we wouldn’t make it]. 84 hours is a very long time and we didn’t have enough food, we didn’t have enough oxygen, we didn’t have enough battery power to run a scrubber.
‘We just had to really ration everything and look after each other. We looked after each other and that was the major lifesaver.’
Friends and relatives of the five people in the missing Titan sea vessel will now be hoping for a similar outcome.
Mallinson revealed today how the decision to steal a bottle of oxygen at the last minute was the reason he survived.
Rescuers in a remote area of the Atlantic Ocean are racing against time to find a missing submersible carrying five people on a mission to document the wreckage of the Titanic
If the Titan sub can be rescued it would be the deepest underwater rescue ever. It submerged at 8am on Sunday morning around 400 miles southeast of St John’s, Newfoundland, according to the US Coast Guard. It lost contact at 9.45am but it wasn’t reported to the Coast Guard until 5.40pm
‘Luckily before we started the dive I stole a bottle of oxygen,’ he told Sky News.
‘Because we stole it, I’m still here otherwise we certainly wouldn’t be here. We’d have run out just after we crashed on the bottom, we would have run out.
Mallison and Chapman have previously revealed how they were forced to huddle for warmth and set alarms to avoid carbon dioxide poisoning.
It all started after the two Brits had been in the Pisces III submersible – a 20ft-long ‘small’ submarine – for eight hours as they buried a telephone cable in the seabed under the dark ocean.
All went to plan initially, with the experienced pair preparing to surface in time for breakfast after a hard night’s work on their 325th dive of the mission.
The men were described as being hungry, exhausted and damp from humidity as they reached the surface at 9.18am.
They were looking forward to some eggs and bacon when a diver from the Vickers Voyager support ship attached a tow rope to their sub that would take them to shore.
However, it was at this point that things started to go disastrously wrong.
Roger Chapman (second left) waves as he is taken to the Vickers Voyager, after being released from the crippled miniature submarine Pisces III
Roger Chapman (left) and Roger Mallinson (right) are reunited with their wives after being rescued
They did not know at the time, but a damaged hatch cover – which Mallinson had earlier flagged for repairs, only to have the request overruled by his bosses – had sprung open when, in a freak accident, a tow rope had wrapped around a hatch bolt.
On Sky News today, Mr Mallinson blamed the diver for incorrectly putting the tow rope to the hatch, adding: ‘He pulled the hatch off and would never admit it after. ‘But that’s what happened.’
A high-pitched alarm sounded, ringing twice and telling both men about a potential leak. Water rushed in.
Things got worse when the Pisces III was suddenly pulled downwards.
The men held on for dear life and, at around 200ft, the tow line suddenly pulled taut, leaving them swinging like a pendulum.
A spare battery for the underwater telephone, the size of a breeze block, came loose and began crashing from one side to the other. A sonar set had also broken free and was battering both of them as they waited to see what would happen next.
Just a few minutes later, the towline snapped, sending them plummeting to the sea bed. ‘[It was] very frightening and we crashed to the seabed in 26 seconds. We’d taken four minutes to come up. Suddenly we went down in 26 seconds.’
The pilots raced to secure every loose object, anything that could ricochet around the cabin when they hit bottom, then switched off all the electrical equipment, to minimise the risk of an explosive fire on impact.
As rescuers desperately search for the missing Titan, well-wishers will be hoping for a similar outcome to what befell the Rogers
As the gauge span past 1,000ft and then 1,200ft, Chapman stacked seat cushions across the back of the cabin, to soften the inevitable crash upon impact.
The men also stuffed cloths in their mouths so they wouldn’t bite through their tongues.
After another severe jolt, the sub came to a halt, sending them crashing against the walls and tumbling over each other. A gauge in the Pisces III told them they were at a staggering 1,575ft.
Despite the terrifying drop, the ship was intact and, in darkness, Chapman wrote in his notebook: ‘On bottom.’
They were trapped at a depth twice that of any previous submarine rescue and there was more than enough water above them to submerge the Empire State Building.
As the reality of their situation sunk in and the two Rogers oriented themselves with the darkness, they quickly realised they were facing a few key problems.
Firstly, they realised they had a dwindling oxygen supply but also realised they needed to stop the build-up of carbon dioxide, which would kill them.
The ship was also freezing cold and they had little food. Luckily, their electrics were still working, meaning they had light and heat.
The Boston Coast Guard is now looking for the missing vessel. The wreckage of the iconic ship sits 12,500ft underwater around 370 miles from Newfoundland, Canada
Shahzada Dawood, 48, (pictured with his wife Christine) a UK-based board member of the Prince’s Trust charity, and his son Sulaiman Dawood, 19, are amongst the five people missing in the submarine that set off to see the wreck of the Titanic, it was revealed today
Among those taking part in the expedition is billionaire Hamish Harding (pictured), CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai. He excitedly posted to social media about being there on Sunday
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
The crew was diving to the ocean floor to survey the Titanic wreckage
However, a loud hissing told them that their main oxygen bottle was leaking.
This triggered a mad dash from the pair, who found the bottle buried under equipment that had fallen during their plunge.
They had another scare when they found the ‘scrubber’ a device that filtered out the carbon dioxide they exhaled.
Discussing the tense moment they found the device, Chapman said later: ‘If it was damaged beyond repair, our survival time would be very short indeed.
‘My heart felt like it was going to thump a hole in my chest. But I could have wept for joy. It was OK.’
They set-up two clockwork timers with plastic dials that they used to trigger an alarm every 30 minutes to remind them to activate the scrubber.
The pilots were aware that if they fell asleep and failed to switch the scrubber on, there was a chance neither of them would wake up.
Chapman was trembling with fear and cold and the water pressure was so strong that it would crush both men if the hatch opened.
He made an inventory of their supplies and was dismayed to find only one soggy sandwich each left.
Mallinson, a 35-year-old father-of-three, took jam, Chapman, a 28-year-old recently married former Royal Navy submariner, took cheese and chutney.
They also shared a can of lemonade, half a flask of black coffee, a tin of powdered milk, a packet of sugar, two apples and three biscuits, as well as the standard lifeboat ration of glucose tablets.
Though all of their equipment was in good condition, they only had a patchy radio signal, meaning they were in the dark as to what was happening above them.
To distract himself, Mallinson imagined Bach’s organ music in his head, moving his fingers to mimic a keyboard.
That was the only movement they allowed, otherwise remaining motionless and taking only shallow breaths to preserve their oxygen supply.
The men even experimented with their CO2 scrubber to save air – though this left them with headaches and bodyaches.
To make matters worse, Mallinson was still feeling the affects of a dodgy meat pie from a pub, leaving him with cramps and pain.
Eventually, he used a plastic bag to relieve himself – only for the stench to make the conditions even worse.
The men huddled together, snatching mere minutes of sleep when they could as exhaustion and thirst battered them.
The temperature inside the sub was 10c but with 95 per cent humidity and condensation running down the walls, they felt colder.
Rescuers tried to contact them – only to be drowned out by the clicks of dolphins. Mallinson found this comforting, though Champman was frustrated.
As they tried to survive and hold on, an extremely complex plan was launched to try and save them.
Peter Messervy was put in charge of their rescue. He had previously been stuck in the Pisces III himself after it sunk a few years earlier and he was highly decorated, having won the George Medal for removing six torpedoes from a sunken Japanese submarine in 1959.
Together with his team, he determined that the Rogers had enough oxygen to last them until 4pm on Saturday.
As they had sunk at around 9am on Wednesday, this meant that the rescue had to be completed in just under 80 hours.
There were four other Pisces-type mini subs in existence but only one, the Pisces II, was near enough to help.
By 10.35am the Pisces II was ordered to head to port, from where it would be flown to Cork.
However, Messervy wasn’t satisfied and so requested that Pisces V, which was off the east coast of Canada, be flown to Cork by a Royal Canadian Air Force Hercules.
Another key component of the rescue effort was an offer from the US Salvage Department of an unmanned submarine called the Controlled Underwater Recovery Vehicle, or CURV.
While the Voyager hurried back to Cork to collect the two submersibles, an RAF Nimrod kept a marker on the men’s position. Two Royal Navy ships headed at full speed to the area too.
‘Neither of us really thought we were going to get out,’ Mallinson said afterwards. ‘You knew you had as much time as when your life support ran out, and that would be it.’
Messervy’s team was working flat out and, by 1am on Friday, August 31, with just 39 hours of oxygen left, the Voyager support ship returned with the two submersibles on board.
At 2.14am Pisces II was launched, equipped with a rope and a toggle that had been made especially for the rescue attempt. The plan was for the toggle to be attached to Pisces III, so the craft could be hauled to the surface.
Unfortunately, several issues struck the vessel and, when it eventually reached the bottom, it was unable to find the Pisces III.
While Pisces II was being repaired, Pisces V was launched but it too failed to find the two men.
Eventually, at 12.44pm on Friday, the lights of Pisces V suddenly caught the Pisces, moving the trapped men to tears.
‘Tears streamed down Roger’s face and, as if ashamed, he buried his head on my shoulder,’ Chapman said.
The two men cracked open a tin of lemonade in celebration.
However, multiple attempts to secure a rescue line failed. One submersible sprang its own leak and had to return to the surface while another developed an electrical fault. Once, a hook and line simply refused to work, and could not be attached.
‘We were running out of time,’ Chapman recalled. ‘Soon there’d be no power to run the scrubber.’
Finally, nearly 70 hours into the ordeal, two lines were secured.
Just before 11am on the morning of Saturday, September 1, the lifting of Pisces III began. The craft swung wildly and Chapman later commented that it was like a ‘like a horrible big dipper gone mad’.
To make matters worse, the bags containing Mallinson and Chapman’s waste burst, flooding their small space.
And there were still more twists to come. The ascent had to be halted twice – the first time because one of the other subs was entangled in the rescue line, the second time to attach another, stronger rope.
At precisely 1.17pm, the Pisces surfaced. Chapman looked at the oxygen gauge and saw that there was a mere 20 minutes left. Later checks revealed the available oxygen was at just 12 minutes.
‘There was a loud bang,’ Chapman said. ‘The hatch was opened and there was sunlight streaming in from above. Real voices spoke and hands reached down.’
The two men collapsed into a inflatable boat and were taken to the Voyager, where, despite their exhaustion, they were both given a clean bill of health.
As rescuers desperately search for the missing Titan, well-wishers will be hoping for a similar outcome.
I am Rakesh Sharma, I associated with Elite News as an Editor, since 2021. I take care of all the news operations like content, budget, hiring and policy making.