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Titanic sub: Joe Biden watching search closely as vessel’s oxygen supply dwindles – live | Titanic sub incident

Titanic sub: Joe Biden watching search closely as vessel’s oxygen supply dwindles – live | Titanic sub incident

Biden ‘watching events closely’, says White House

US President Joe Biden is “watching events closely” surrounding the missing submersible, the White House’s spokesperson John Kirby has said.

At a briefing, Kirby pointed to the ongoing search efforts by the US coast guard, Canadian officials and other agencies. The US navy is also on standby “should they be needed because they have some deep-water capabilities that the coast guard wouldn’t necessarily have”, he said.

Kirby added:

All of us, including the President express our thoughts to the crew on board, as well as to the no doubt worried family members back on shore.

Key events

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The missing Titan sub is landing on the front page of UK newspapers.

The Mirror and Daily Express are praying for a miracle:

And Daily Mail declares a 24 hour window to save the sub’s crew:

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‘No small feat’ expert says

The search and rescue operation for the Titan sub is up against an array of potential complications – potential battery failure, limited communication with the surface, weather conditions, pressure 380 times greater than what we’re used to on earth’s surface, and a timer on oxygen supplies – Prof Stefan Williams writes in The Conversation.

Rescuing the Titan and its passengers will not be an easy feat, he writes:

Finding an underwater vehicle the size of a small bus in this vast and remote expanse of ocean will be no small feat.

Williams writes that safety risks around manned submersibles has been the topic of scientific debate:

There’s an ongoing debate in scientific circles regarding the relative merit of manned submersibles, wherein each deployment incurs a safety risk – and the safety of the crew and passengers is paramount.
Currently, most underwater research and offshore industrial work is conducted using unmanned and robotic vehicles. A loss to one of these vehicles might compromise the work being done, but at least lives aren’t at stake. In light of these events, there will likely be intense discussion about the risks associated with using these systems to support deep-sea tourism.

Updated at 21.52 EDT

Passenger Hamish Harding was excited for the Titan’s expedition to the Titanic wreck, friend Terry Virts told NBC News:

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He was excited. The text I got was ‘hey, we’re headed down to Titanic today, exclamation point’.

Virts, a former NASA astronaut and Air Force pilot, told NBC he received the text from Harding early Sunday morning.

Harding, one of the five passengers missing onboard the Titan, is an aviator owner of Action Aviation. He was aware of the risks, but not worried about them, according to Virts.

Picture of British billionaire Hamish Harding, said to be among the missing submarine’s passengers
British billionaire Hamish Harding, who is said to be among the passengers onboard the submarine that went missing on trip to the Titanic wreckage is seen in this handout picture taken in flight, July 2019.
Photograph: Jannicke Mikkelsen/Reuters

Virts and Harding’s family are hopeful:

“The really good news that we have is that we haven’t heard bad news — they haven’t found a wreckage, they haven’t found debris floating, the sonar didn’t pick up any kind of crushing or exploding noise,” he told NBC. “So there’s definitely hope that the crew is alive in the submersible.”

Updated at 21.16 EDT
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An old PDF promoting the Titan, showing seating configuration for five people in the sub, has been shared by NBC News deputy tech editor Ben Goggin.

“Only one person can extend their legs. This looks like hell folks,” he writes:

I found an old PDF promoting the Titanic-bound Titan submarine. It shows a “typical seating configuration” for 5 people.

only 1 person can extend their legs.

This looks like hell folks. pic.twitter.com/NPCUniq0fs

— Ben Goggin (@BenjaminGoggin) June 20, 2023

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Here’s a photo of that configuration aboard the Titan Titanic-bound ship from another PDF buried on their website.

Similar to the diagram, only one person can stretch their legs out pic.twitter.com/OSbzQ9hyr6

— Ben Goggin (@BenjaminGoggin) June 20, 2023

Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Halifax – the air and marine search and rescue response in Atlantic and Canada – are preparing air vessels to aid the search for the missing sub.

The Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora aircraft has surface search and sub-surface acoustic detection capabilities. It will provide continuous on scene support with additional aircrews and assets.

The Royal Canadian Navy ship HMCS Glace Bay will provide a medical team specialising in dive medicine, as well as a six person mobile hyperbaric recompression chamber. It is expected to be on scene by midday 22 June.

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The Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) John Cabot is expected to arrive later today. CCGS Terry Fox is currently in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador, and the CCGS Ann Harvey is currently enroute.

Both vessels are on standby, loading search and rescue equipment and personnel should assistance be required

MRCC Boston retains the lead for all search coordination, and can be reached at D1PUBLICAFFAIRS@uscg.mil for further information. pic.twitter.com/f3S8jdIbNs

— Halifax JRCC CCCOS (@hfxjrcc) June 20, 2023

Best and worst case scenarios

A long list of onboard systems, and environmental hazards, would have been identified and assessed before the Titan’s expedition began, and before the submersible and its five occupants slipped beneath the waves near Newfoundland.

But at 3,800 metres below sea-level the pressure is crushing, and at a site nearly 400 miles off the coast there is a real potential of getting lost.

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Guardian’s science editor Ian Sample dissects the best and worst case scenarios that could explain the missing Titanic sub’s loss of contact with surface. You can read his full analysis here:

Updated at 20.11 EDT

What we know about the people onboard

Five people were onboard the Titan submersible vessel when it went missing during an expedition to the wreck of the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean.

Here we take a look at who they are:

According to the US Coast Guard, several more vessels will be joining the search.

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The US’s Sycamore ship, as well as the Canadian John Cabot and a French research vessel with an exploration robot will be joining the search.

Meanwhile, the five people onboard the submersible that went missing have less than 40 hours of breathable air left, according to the Coast Guard.

Updated at 19.33 EDT

The Titan submersible is not classed according to normal industry standards, a 2019 post on owner Oceangate’s website says. The company’s justification for operating the submersible despite falling outside regular industry safety regulations is “innovation”.

“When OceanGate was founded the goal was to pursue the highest reasonable level of innovation in the design and operation of manned submersibles. By definition, innovation is outside of an already accepted system. However, this does not mean that OceanGate does [not] meet standards where they apply, but it does mean that innovation often falls outside of the existing industry paradigm,” the post on the website reads.

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According to Lloyd’s Register, a company that specializes in engineering and technology for the maritime industry, classification for submersibles is “conditional upon strict observation of the restrictions imposed on service operation, and upon the proper maintenance of the submersible or chamber and identified ancillary equipment which is required to comply with the Rules.”

The Titan submersible operated by OceanGate Expeditions dives in an undated photographThe Titan submersible, operated by OceanGate Expeditions to explore the wreckage of the sunken SS Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland, dives in an undated photograph. OceanGate Expeditions/Handout via Reuters.
The Titan submersible operated by OceanGate Expeditions dives in an undated photograph
The Titan submersible, operated by OceanGate Expeditions to explore the wreckage of the sunken SS Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland, dives in an undated photograph. OceanGate Expeditions/Handout via Reuters.
Photograph: Oceangate Expeditions/Reuters

The New York air national guard is now assisting with search and rescue efforts, Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Hochul said: “The women and men of New York’s air national guard are always ready to lend a helping hand. I commend the members of the 106th rescue wing for their efforts to assist the US Coast Guard in this search and rescue operation.”

The 106th Rescue Wing, based in Westhampton Beach on Long Island, is now part of the joint operation in the Atlantic to locate the missing sub before oxygen runs out. As of Tuesday afternoon, the coast guard estimated there were 40 hours of breathable air.

The 106th flies fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft and helicopters, and has a unit of pararescue jumpers trained for sea and land. On Monday afternoon, the rescue wing launched a search and rescue aircraft of 13 airmen and a team of pararescue jumpers at the request of the US Coast Guard.

More efforts continue today.

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The New York Air National Guard is assisting the @USCG search & rescue operation for the missing submersible that was going to explore the Titanic wreckage.

New York will always be ready to lend a helping hand, & I commend the members of the 106th Rescue Wing for their efforts.

— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) June 20, 2023

Updated at 17.40 EDT

The search for the missing Titan sub is now more of an underwater operation, US Coast Guard rear admiral John Mauger told CNN this afternoon. Up until this point, search and rescue operations were primarily on the surface of the water and in the air.

Mauger told the network: “Our thoughts as we continue on with this search are with the crew members and their family members right now. If there’s any chance, we’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure we locate that submersible.”

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He continued: “We’ve been working through the night with a broad group of partners to bring all capabilities to bear, looking on both the surface and now expanding to a sub-surface search in the area.”

The expanded search includes four additional vessels and five remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), which have the capability to go underwater, although it’s not immediately clear to what depth, or other details of how those will be used.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger, commander of the First Coast Guard District, speaks to the media, Monday, June 19, 2023, in Boston.
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger, commander of the First Coast Guard District, speaks to the media, Monday, June 19, 2023, in Boston. Photograph: Steven Senne/AP

Updated at 18.38 EDT

Summary of the day so far

Here’s a recap of today’s developments:

  • The crew of the submersible Titan, which went missing in the Atlantic during a dive to the wreck of the Titanic, have about 40 hours of breathable air remaining, if they are still alive, US Coast Guard officials said on Tuesday afternoon.

  • Rescue teams are racing against time to locate the 22ft-long (6.7-metre-long) vessel, which had a 96-hour supply of oxygen when contact was lost on Sunday at one hour and 45 minutes into its descent to the wreck site 12,500ft (3,800 metres) beneath the ocean’s surface, about 370 miles (600km) from the coast of Newfoundland.

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  • A massive sea and air search that began on Sunday night for the vessel and five men aboard, and which has so far covered 7,600 sq miles of a remote area of the ocean, had “not yielded any results”, Capt Jamie Frederick also told reporters at a media briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

  • On Tuesday morning, military authorities said the search was expanding to under the water, using sonar and other hi-tech equipment, enhancing surface operations that had continued through the night.

  • The French president, Emmanuel Macron, ordered the dispatch of research ship Atalante to join the international search for the missing Titan sub, the French government confirmed. The ship is expected to arrive on site by Wednesday evening local time.

  • Five crew members are aboard the carbon fiber and titanium submersible Titan. They include Hamish Harding, 58, a British explorer and pilot who has previously taken a suborbital spaceflight; British Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48; and his son Sulaiman, 19. The British Foreign Office has confirmed it is in contact with the families of three British nationals on the sub.

  • Also aboard are Paul Henri Nargeolet, a former French navy commander, deep diver and submersible pilot widely considered the leading authority on the Titanic wreck site, and Stockton Rush, the founder of OceanGate.

  • US President Joe Biden is “watching events closely” surrounding the missing submersible, the White House’s spokesperson John Kirby has said. It is understood that King Charles has asked to kept fully up to date on the situation regarding the missing submersible.

  • A former employee of Oceangate, the company that owns the missing sub and runs tourist expeditions of the Titanic wreck, voiced concerns about the safety of the sub as early as 2018, according to a report. Court documents obtained by The New Republic show the employee was concerned about “the potential danger to passengers of the Titan as the submersible reached extreme depths”.

King Charles asks to be kept up to date on Titan search

King Charles has asked to kept fully up to date on the situation regarding the missing submersible, Sky News understands.

The king’s thoughts and prayers are with the Dawood family and all those involved in the attempted recovery operation, it says.

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Updated at 15.56 EDT

The US navy is sending a Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System (FADOSS), as well as subject matter experts, to assist in the search of the submersible that went missing while trying to travel to the wreck of the Titanic, a US navy spokesperson has said.

A statement by the US navy said the FADOSS is a “motion compensated lift system designed to provide reliable deep ocean lifting capacity for the recovery of large, bulky, and heavy undersea objects such as aircraft or small vessels”.

Both the salvage system and subject experts are expected to arrive at St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, tonight.

Biden ‘watching events closely’, says White House

US President Joe Biden is “watching events closely” surrounding the missing submersible, the White House’s spokesperson John Kirby has said.

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At a briefing, Kirby pointed to the ongoing search efforts by the US coast guard, Canadian officials and other agencies. The US navy is also on standby “should they be needed because they have some deep-water capabilities that the coast guard wouldn’t necessarily have”, he said.

Kirby added:

All of us, including the President express our thoughts to the crew on board, as well as to the no doubt worried family members back on shore.

A former employee of Oceangate, the company that owns the missing sub and runs tourist expeditions of the Titanic wreck, voiced concerns about the safety of the sub as early as 2018, according to a report.

Court documents obtained by The New Republic show the employee, David Lochridge, was concerned about “the potential danger to passengers of the Titan as the submersible reached extreme depths”.

Lochridge was reportedly OceanGate’s director of marine operations at the time, “responsible for the safety of all crew and clients”. The documents allege that he was wrongfully terminated after he raised safety complaints over the sub, and claim that OceanGate terminated his employment “in efforts to silence Lochridge and to avoid addressing the safety and quality control issues”.

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The documents allege that Lochridge “identified numerous issues that posed serious safety concerns, and offered corrective action and recommendations for each”. He was particularly concerned about “non-destructive testing performed on the hull of the Titan”, they say.

The court filings also allege:

The paying passengers would not be aware, and would not be informed, of this experimental design, the lack of non-destructive testing of the hull, or that hazardous flammable materials were being used within the submersible.

The case between Lochridge and OceanGate was settled out of court in November 2018.

Promotional materials for the Titan submersible reveal the tight quarters the five passengers are currently in.

NBC News’ Ben Goggin has shared the diagram of the ship, which shows that only one of the passengers is able to fully extend their legs at one time.

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I found an old PDF promoting the Titanic-bound Titan submarine. It shows a “typical seating configuration” for 5 people.

only 1 person can extend their legs.

This looks like hell folks. pic.twitter.com/NPCUniq0fs

— Ben Goggin (@BenjaminGoggin) June 20, 2023

Here’s a photo of that configuration aboard the Titan Titanic-bound ship from another PDF buried on their website.

Similar to the diagram, only one person can stretch their legs out pic.twitter.com/OSbzQ9hyr6

— Ben Goggin (@BenjaminGoggin) June 20, 2023

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Updated at 14.36 EDT

Stockton Rush, the chief executive of OceanGate Expeditions, was warned by leaders in the submersible vehicle industry that the “company’s current ‘experimental’ approach” could result in problems “from minor to catastrophic”.

The warning came in a 2018 letter to Rush, obtained by the New York Times. A reporter from the Times visited OceanGate’s main office, based in Everett, Washington, where he said “the entrance door was locked, and nobody responded to knocking”.

I went to OceanGate’s main office, finding it on the backside of a marina, amid boat repair businesses. There is no sign, save for a tiny Titanic logo in a window. The site has several containers out front, along with some old wood oars and a beach chair.https://t.co/COsDkNo7pm pic.twitter.com/Ws5W5GI1XD

— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) June 20, 2023

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Rafqa Touma (now); Erum Salam, Léonie Chao-Fong, Jamie Grierson and Maanvi Singh (earlier)

Published: 2023-06-21 03:02:40

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