Submersible reported missing after it was overdue by a couple of hours Sunday evening
The search for a small submersible that was heading to the site of the wreck of the Titanic is continuing on Monday, with additional resources being brought in to help.
The company behind the mission — OceanGate Expeditions — says it is “exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely.”
The submersible was reported missing somewhere around 370 nautical miles — or 685 kilometres — off the coast of Newfoundland while on a diving mission to the legendary wreckage.
Five people are confirmed to be onboard the submersible, according to the U.S. coast guard, which held a news conference in Boston shortly after 4:30 EST.
“Our entire focus is on the crew members in the submersible and their families,” OceanGate wrote in a statement earlie on Monday.
The submersible was reported missing after it was overdue by a couple of hours on Sunday evening, according to Chief Mi’sel Joe, head of the Mi’kmaq band that owns the Polar Prince, the ship that launched it
Another submersible is being flown in from the United States to join the search, said Joe.
“Your mind wanders to what could have happened, but we just don’t know,” Joe said. “We just pray that everyone is OK.”
Larry Daley, a St. John’s-based diver who made the trip to the Titanic 20 years ago, told CBC News he knows one of the people on the expedition — French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet.
Nargeolet spent 25 years in the French navy, is a legend of deep sea diving and worked with Daley on his first Titanic dive.
The London Telegraph is reporting Hamish Harding, a British businessman and explorer, is also part of the diving team.
“My thoughts and prayers are with everyone … all the people in the sub and the people that are out there looking,” Daley said Monday afternoon. “I’m very optimistic that this will come to a very happy ending, and I’m hopeful that it will.”
Submersible tours are offered by OceanGate Expeditions, a U.S.-based company with operations in Newfoundland. The tours cost about $250,000 for a 3,800-metre dive down to the wreckage.
Those tours are a series of five eight-day missions to the Titanic with the money raised from tourists going toward Titanic research. Posts on social media show the ship launched from St. John’s, N.L. last week.
U.S., Canadian Coast Guard continuing search
The Canadian Coast Guard said Monday morning the search falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. coast guard, which provided an update Monday afternoon saying the search is continuing.
Rear Admiral John Mauger, the search lead for the U.S. coast guard, told reporters the search includes both the water’s surface — in the event the submersible has surfaced — and underwater through the use of sonar.
“It is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area. But we are deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board,” he said.
OceanGate said the submersible has life support capacity for five people on board the Titan for 96 hours — or four days.
Mauger said search crews are using that time as part of their planning, estimating they have at least 70 hours of life support left for the people on board.
“We’re using that time, making the best use of every moment of that time to locate the vessel,” he said.
Daley said he’s been part of search parties before and has a sense of what could be going on.
“The energy level is high. The adrenaline is through the roof. Everybody is up on dock and on watch using every available piece of equipment and all eyes,” he said. “Everybody is looking.”
‘Just trying to be observers’
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush could not be reached for comment Monday.
He spoke with CBC News in April, saying it was the earliest the expeditions had gone ahead. They typically aim for the summer months, since June is still iceberg season off the coast of Newfoundland.
“I’ve always wanted to see the icebergs or maybe even have the fortunate chance to dive next to one,” he said. “So with the Polar Prince and its ice capabilities, we thought, ‘Let’s move the trip a little earlier this year.’”
Rush said the sea is typically calmer in May and June, which also influenced the decision to go earlier.
Daley said the same on Monday.
“This time of year is the best time to dive [to] Titanic — in the spring going into early summer. You’re not dodging hurricanes, you don’t have sea ice. Icebergs are out there, but they’re not an issue,” he said.
“It’s the depth … that’s the big factor. You know, to get the submersible back to the surface is the big thing.”
OceanGate Expeditions has been working to measure things such as erosion of the Titanic and examining forms of life growing onboard the wreckage. This year, the company planned to return to a coral reef found 3,000 metres beneath the surface. The development had been altered by iron from the sunken ship.
Rush said the expedition always abides by rules set out by the United Nations on how to work near the Titanic without disturbing the wreckage, which is also a mass gravesite.
“It’s much more manoeuvrable than other submersibles that have been down there and we are very careful to not touch the wreck and to really just capture the images and the data around it,” he said. “We’re trying to be just observers.”
With files from Heather Gillis
Published: 2023-06-20 00:39:04