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Titanic Expedition Leader Casts Doubt on Rescue of Submersible

Titanic Expedition Leader Casts Doubt on Rescue of Submersible


Experienced Titanic diver G. Michael Harris is wary of search-and-rescue teams’ abilities to find the lost submersible in the Atlantic Ocean, saying that typical expeditions to the iconic ship’s wreckage site can typically take up to 1 1/2 years.

Crews have been searching since Sunday for a submersible carrying five people on board that disappeared while it was on its way to tour the Titanic wreckage. As of Tuesday, the Coast Guard said that there have been no signs of the vessel, and officials estimate that the people on board are down to only a few days left of breathable air.

It’s unclear why the submersible, called the Titan, lost connection with its control center, and search officials are scouring both the ocean surface and under the sea for the vessel’s potential whereabouts. The Titanic wreckage site is nearly 13,000 feet below sea level and roughly 900 miles east of Cape Code, Massachusetts, where the Titan departed Sunday morning.

A Coast Guard member on Tuesday walks past a cutter at the Coast Guard Base Boston in Massachusetts. Search missions are ongoing for the submersible that went missing in the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday while on its way to tour the wreckage of the Titanic.
Joseph Prezioso / AFP via Getty

Harris, a veteran Titanic diver who has led several expeditions to the wreckage site to recover artifacts, told CBS News on Tuesday that underwater voyages are only given a three-month weather window, typically between the end of June and September, adding that it’s “really early in the season” to be taking such a mission.

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“You’re 12,850 feet down, and so every precaution has to be taken at all times so that something doesn’t go wrong, or at least mitigate everything you possibly can to ensure that nothing goes wrong,” Harris said while speaking with CBS’ John Dickerson.

Expeditions can also take over a year to organize and execute, said Harris, adding that it wasn’t a trip “you can throw together” when asked by Dickerson about how challenging the search for the Titan is for the Coast Guard rescue crews.

“We’ve been salvaging artifacts from the Titanic for the last 25 years-plus, and if you’re set up for the mission, I mean, we’ll usually spend a year, 1 1/2 years planning salvage operation to recover artifacts, to recover different pieces from the Titanic,” Harris said.

“This is not something that you can throw together in 48 hours,” he added. “Plus you have to organize equipment, you have to get equipment out there, and I’m not sure there’s anything close enough that can actually get down to Titanic’s depth to do any good if that is actually where the submersible is.”

According to OceanGate, the private deep-sea expedition company that owns the Titan, the vessel can reach depths of 12,123 feet and provide oxygen for a total of 96 hours for its passengers. If estimations are correct, that means the submersible’s oxygen levels could be depleted by Thursday morning.

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The five people who boarded are: OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, French submersible pilot Paul-Henry Nargeolet, British explorer Hamish Harding, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman Dawood.

Newsweek has reached out via email to the Coast Guard for an update on search efforts.

Published: 2023-06-21 05:49:04

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