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Mini-sub vanishes near Titanic wreck in Atlantic with people aboard

A submersible on an expedition to explore the wreckage of the Titanic vanished Sunday off the coast of southeastern Canada, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Monday.

The Coast Guard is searching for five people after the submersible lost contact with the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince during a dive that took place 900 miles east of Cape Cod on Sunday morning. The vessel is currently operating on 96 hours of emergency oxygen, which could sustain passengers for several days, Coast Gaurd Rear Admiral John Mauger said Monday at a news conference.

The dive was organized by OceanGate Expeditions, a private research and tourism company. Among the 5 passengers aboard the submersible vessel was one commander who piloted the ship and four “mission specialists” who paid to take part in the expedition, according to Mauger.

OceanGate alerted the Coast Guard of the vessel’s disappearance Saturday afternoon, about 45 minutes after its last reported communication. OceanGate Expeditions said in a statement it was “mobilizing all options” to rescue those on board, and that its “entire focus is on the crew members in the submersible and their families.”

A Coast Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft, as well as a Canadian P8 aircraft equipped with underwater sonar capability, are searching for the missing submersible, said the Coast Guard. An additional C-130 aircraft from the New York National Guard will join the aerial search this evening.

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Additional commercial companies in the area are aiding in the search for the vessel, primarily searching the ocean surface.

In 2021, OceanGate Expeditions began taking crews of “citizen scientists” or “crew members” in the submersible to view the wreck of the RMS Titanic. Its website says OceanGate conducts eight-day expeditions to the wreck, with one currently underway and the next one planned for June 2024.

“OceanGate Expeditions makes you a full member of the crew and the experience allows you to participate in every aspect of the expedition,” says a review on the company’s website attributed to two-time customer Renata R.

During Monday’s news conference, Mauger said the Coast Guard and OceanGate would not be sharing the names of the vessel’s passengers out of respect for families who were still being notified of the ship’s disappearance. Several suspected passengers shared posts on social media ahead of the voyage.

Hamish Harding, who works in the aviation industry, is one of several passengers aboard the missing vessel. He shared an Instagram post Sunday detailing how severe weather had made planning the voyage difficult. “This mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023,” he wrote.

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On Facebook, David Concannon, an attorney and ocean explorer, shared a post saying “I was supposed to be on this expedition and, indeed, on this dive, but I had to cancel to attend to another urgent client matter.”

The Titanic, the largest ship of its time, was touted as unsinkable before its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York in April 1912 with more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board. After striking an iceberg, it sank into the North Atlantic Ocean, killing more than 1,500 people, according to most estimates. Its wreckage now lies on the ocean floor under 12,500 feet of water, roughly 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland.

Last year, Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate, told CBS that the expedition costs $250,000 per person. Rush said some of the Titanic enthusiasts — or “Titaniacs” — who travel on the submersible mortgage their homes to go on the trip or save for 30 years, while others are so rich they don’t think twice about the cost.

David Pogue, a CBS reporter who went on the Titanic expedition, said via Twitter that the submersible he traveled on also went missing for a few hours last year.

Neither Rush nor OceanGate could be immediately reached Monday to discuss the missing.

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A submersible is different from a submarine because the former is supported by a surface vessel, platform, shore team or sometimes a larger submarine.

Rare footage of 1986 Titanic dive provides haunting look at wreck

The Titanic has already been in the news several times this year. In May, an underwater 3D scanning project led by British deep-sea mapping company Magellan revealed a “digital twin” of the vessel with stunning features of the wreckage.

Earlier this year, largely unseen footage of the ship from 1986 was revealed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, an ocean research nonprofit. The video, which shows the wreckage of the Titanic months after it was discovered, commemorated the 25th anniversary of the movie “Titanic,” whose writer and director James Cameron continues to support Titanic research.



Washington Post » World

Published: 2023-06-19 20:52:30

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