The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a missing Canadian research submarine that disappeared Sunday after exploring the sea wreck of the Titanic.
The 21-foot submarine and its five-man crew, from the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince, began a dive Sunday morning, the Coast Guard said. But the Polar Prince lost contact with the ship after an hour and 45 minutes.
The missing submarine – named Titan, according to The Associated Press – is part of an OceanGate Expeditions tour that explores the wreckage of the Titanic, 900 nautical miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The private company charters trips to explore the wreck with its survey teams.
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Vice Admiral John Mauger, the Coast Guard District Commander who led the search, said authorities received a call for help from OceanGate on Sunday afternoon after the crew lost contact and the submarine missed its return time. He said the Coast Guard immediately launched a surface and air search to find or recover the submarine and any survivors.
“We really brought all the resources at our disposal to find the submarine and the people in it,” Mauger said. “We understand from the submarine operator that there is a spare capacity of 96 hours on board, so that gives us some time to search. But when something happens on the high seas, things quickly get complicated.”
One of the missing crew members is Hamish Harding, the billionaire owner and chairman of Action Aviation. A Sunday post on Harding’s Instagram account said he joined OceanGate’s expedition “as a mission specialist” — usually a one-time crew member who pays a fee to join.
Those crew members’ fees “endorse the mission, the science team’s participation, and their own mission,” the OceanGate website says.
The company said it was working with numerous government agencies to assist with the rescue.
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“Our entire focus is on the crew members in the submarine and their families. We are deeply grateful for the extensive assistance we have received from various government agencies and deep-sea companies in our efforts to re-establish contact with the submarine,” said OceanGate in a statement. .
Mauger said the Coast Guard called in technical experts, dropped sonar buoys to listen for underwater noise and reached out to other government agencies and private contractors for help and “to really better understand what an undersea search and rescue would look like.”
Coast Guard officials said at a news conference Monday afternoon that they have deployed two C-130 aircraft for an aerial survey and that the sonar buoys can listen to depths of 13,000 feet.
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The New York National Guard is providing a third C-130 and the Canadian Coast Guard is providing a C-130, as well as a P8 Poseidon aircraft with underwater detection capabilities.
The Coast Guard said it also relies on commercial boat operators already in nearby waters, as well as OceanGate’s mothership, Polar Prince, for help.
Mauger added at the press conference that the Coast Guard is working on expanding its capabilities to also search underwater.
Two U.S. Coast Guard ships lie in Boston Harbor opposite the U.S. Coast Guard Station Boston in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 19, 2023. missing, triggering a search and rescue operation, the U.S. Coast Guard said on June 19, 2023.
Joseph Prezioso | Afp | Getty Images
OceanGate’s submarines have shorter power cycles than submarines, and they are tied to motherships (in this case the Polar Prince) when operating far from land. Submarines, on the other hand, can usually travel long distances independently and use ports as home bases.
OceanGate’s expeditions include a 10-day, 18-dive trip from a larger boat to a maximum depth of 12,800 feet, the company said. People can pay up to $250,000 to participate in the exploration, The New York Times reported last year.
The OceanGate website says that during visits to the Titanic site, the teams collect images, videos, and laser and sonar data for scientific research, documenting the condition of the wreck and collecting information about the flora and fauna using the sunken ship as a their maritime home.
Considered the world’s most famous shipwreck, the Titanic was a lavish 883-foot ocean liner. Thought to be “unsinkable,” it shocked the world in 1912 when it hit ice in the Atlantic Ocean and sank. More than 1,500 people died.
The wreck was discovered in 1985, about 350 miles away Newfoundland. Surrounded by debris, the ship’s two main pieces are about 2,000 feet apart, according to a full-scale scan that was made released this year.
Continued fascination with the Titanic has led to a tourist industry surrounding it and its sinking, especially after the release of director James Cameron’s 1997 film of the same name.