The desperate hunt for the five men trapped on the lost Titan submersible has entered its make-or-break day as more ships set up above the Titanic wreck with time quickly running out to pull off the deepest undersea rescue mission ever.
As rescuers scramble to pull off a miracle amid a dwindling oxygen supply for those aboard, experts fear that even if the craft automatically resurfaced as planned, the crew of five would still suffocate in hours because they can’t physically open the hatch from the inside.
The bleak outlook comes as the US Coast Guard conceded in day two’s press conference that even if the OceanGate Expeditions sub is located, it may be too late to save the five passengers. The authorities estimated 40 hours of oxygen was left between the five in their 1pm conference (6pm UK time).
On board the sub is British billionaire Hamish Harding, UK-based Prince’s Trust board member Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush and French world-renowned explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet. Their best chance of survival is to repeatedly bang on the hull in the dark and scream for help.
They are thought to have paid £195,000 to be taken on a 12,500ft dive to see the famed Titanic wreckage, which is about 370 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada.
Last night, shipwreck hunter David Mearns who is friends with Mr Harding, claimed to have heard reports of ‘tapping’ from inside the sub in an interview with Channel 4, which would suggest there were signs of life. MailOnline contacted Mr Mearns, who is a member of The Explorers Club with Mr Harding, for clarification on this.
British billionaire Hamish Harding (left) is one of the five men who went missing on the OceanGate tourist submersible on Sunday
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush (left) is also aboard. The The desperate hunt for the five men trapped on the lost Titan submersible has entered its make-or-break day
Shahzada Dawood, 48, a UK-based board member of the Prince’s Trust charity, and his son Sulaiman Dawood, 19, are among the five people trapped in the sub
French world-renowned explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet is also aboard. Time is running out to save the lives of the five missing passengers
As families wait in agony for news, OceanGate, who started dives to the Titanic in 2021, are facing questions after it emerged the Titan suffered electrical damage and had to be rebuilt for not being able to withstand the ocean before it vanished.
The tourist company responsible for the missing submersible also took eight hours to report it to the Coast Guard after it lost contact an hour and 45 minutes into its descent on Sunday, the DailyMail.com revealed yesterday.
What happened on day two on the hunt for missing Titan sub?
- It emerged that coastguards were not notified until eight hours after the submarine vanished;
- Rescuers are scouring 10,000 square miles of the North Atlantic in case Titan has surfaced as well as probing the icy depths up to three miles down;
- A drone with a camera was last night diving to the craft’s last known position;
- Surface sonar buoys are ‘listening’ for any sound of the billionaire tourists or crew banging on the hull;
- A former passenger revealed he had to sign a waiver before his trip listing ‘three ways you can die’;
- He also claimed the submarine suffered repeated communications problems;
- Rishi Sunak pledged the Royal Navy’s help;
- The French sent a research ship with an underwater robot;
- Experts warned the tourists could die of hypothermia and one said the craft could have ‘imploded’.
- King Charles has asked to be kept abreast of the situation – Mr Dawood is on the board of his flagship charity.
By yesterday, a fleet of US and Canadian rescue ships and aircraft had swarmed to the scene, along with a growing number of private vessels.
Speaking at search headquarters in Boston, Captain Jamie Frederick of the US Coastguard announced: ‘Those search efforts have not yielded any results.’
But last night some of the commercial vessels with specialist underwater drones were sending them down. Mr Frederick offered his ‘most heartfelt thoughts and prayers’ to the lost crew and their loved ones, and pledged they were doing ‘everything possible’. But he admitted the rescuers were entering the final hours.
When he was asked ‘Even with that amount of time left, if you were to find the submersible at this moment, would that give you enough time to save those five people on board?’ he replied: ‘I don’t know the answer to that question. All I know is we will do everything within our power to effect a rescue.’
The Titanic wreckage lies at 12,500ft, and Titan was one of the only craft in the world capable of reaching it. Even nuclear submarines cannot safely go that deep. Deep water dive specialists are assisting coastguards in the ‘unique and challenging’ operation, said Mr Frederick.
Standing on a dockside, he told reporters: ‘Getting salvage equipment on scene is a top priority. It is very heavy equipment, it is very complex, but the best experts are on scene. If the sub is located, the experts will look at the best course of action for recovering the sub.’
Among the equipment is a decompression chamber for the five passengers should they be brought to the surface.
The last signal from Titan was at 9.45am (2.45pm UK time) on Sunday, but its disappearance was not reported to the US Coastguard until 5.40pm (10.40pm UK time), some eight hours later. There are fears the craft could be snagged on the doomed cruiseliner itself, making rescue all but impossible.
Horrifyingly – even if Titan had made it to the surface – the passengers would still face suffocation unless they were located because the submarine cannot be opened from the inside. Its door is sealed by 17 bolts to withstand the enormous water pressure at depth. Titan is designed to automatically resurface after a certain number of hours underwater, even if it has lost power, with weights being dropped to make the craft buoyant.
The Titan sub is shown on Sunday morning, seconds before submerging at around 8am with five people onboard
The Polar Prince is the expedition ship being used in the dives. It is now helping out in the rescue mission to locate the sub
OceanGate Expeditions offers tours of the famous Titanic shipwreck of 1912. Tickets cost up to £195,000 per passenger onboard
Former Royal Navy commander Ryan Ramsey warned: ‘There is no way of rescuing them. The technology, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t exist to carry out a rescue operation that deep.’
But shipwreck hunter Mr Mearns claimed his Explorers Club had received reports of ‘tapping’ in the sub. Speaking on Channel 4 News yesterday, he said: ‘The only thing and there’s some reports I’ve just read from my own club, which is how I know Hamish, that somebody today has heard some tapping.
‘Now they’ve got sonobuoys out there. There may be some other hydrophones the mothership the Polar Prince had in the water. It’s hard to imagine how they could have heard that but still.
‘They are at least trying to operate or encourage the rescue efforts to continue on and be redoubled on the fact they’ve heard something would suggest the men are alive in the submersible.’ MailOnline has contacted Mr Mearns but could not reach him last night.
As time ticks on, billionaire Mr Dawood’s family, including his wife Christine and daughter Alina, released a statement saying they were ‘praying to Allah for the safe return’ of him and his son.
OceanGate, which advertises its adventures as ‘a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to ‘safely dive the Titanic wreckage site’ in a ‘12,500ft journey to the bottom of the sea’, has said in a statement: ‘Every step possible is being taken to bring the five crew members back safely.’
It was reported yesterday that the company fired a director who raised concerns about safety in 2018.
The 21ft submersible has an oxygen supply of up to 96 hours but it is thought the crew of five have less than 40 hours of breathable air left
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
Harding excitedly posted to social media about being on the mission before launching the submarine in an Instagram post
The US Coast Guard in Boston is now looking for the missing vessel. The wreckage of the iconic ship sits 12,500ft underwater around 370 miles from Newfoundland, Canada
OceanGate disagreed with his demand for more rigorous safety checks on the submersible and suggested that seeking classification could take years and would be ‘anathema to rapid innovation’.
A friend of Mr Harding then came forward to reveal that that he had pulled out of joining the billionaire on the missing sub due to ‘safety concerns.
Chris Brown, 61, had paid the deposit to go on the doomed voyage, but says he changed his mind after becoming concerned by the quality of technology and materials used in the vessel, The Sun reported.
Among his concerns were OceanGate’s use of ‘old scaffolding poles’ for the ballast and the fact that its controls were ‘based on computer game-style controllers’.
He said that despite being ‘one of the first people to sign up for this trip’, he ultimately decided the ‘risks were too high’.
OceanGate initially planned to use the sub for a trip to the Titanic in 2018 but this was abandoned after it sustained damage to its electronics from lightning.
Then, in 2019, the voyage was postponed again because of a problem with complying with Canadian maritime law limitations on foreign flag vessels, according to technology news site GreekWire.
Images from Ocean Gate, one of the tour companies that operates the expeditions, show the wreckage
Then it suffered further problems in 2020 and had to be completely rebuilt after tests showed signs of ‘cyclic fatigue’ that reduced the hull’s depth rating to 3,000 meters, which was well short of what it required to get close to the Titanic.
The vessel, built of carbon fibre and titanium was originally designed to take five people to depths of 4,000 metres (13,123 feet).
G Michael Harris, who said he knew some of the five on board Titan, told Fox News: ‘Worst situation is something happened to the hull and our fear is that it imploded at around 10,000ft.’
The extreme water pressure would doom the craft if even the smallest part of its carbon-fibre and titanium body failed – it would be squashed flat in a fraction of a second.
Before chaos broke out on Sunday, billionaire British entrepreneur and explorer Hamish Harding, 58, had excitedly posted a message on social media before entering the Titan submarine. He said there was a break in the bad weather and promised ‘more expedition updates IF the weather holds’.
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.