It's a race against time: near the "Titanic" wreck in the Atlantic, rescue workers are looking for five missing people in a missing submarine. Since the oxygen in the nearly seven-meter-long "Titan" is sufficient for 96 hours, according to the operator, "we assume that between 70 and 96 hours are currently available," said Commander John Mauger of the US Coast Guard in Boston. The boat has been missing for more than 24 hours.
"We are using all available means to ensure that we can locate the ship and rescue the people on board," Mauger said. The company Oceangate Expeditions confirmed that people were on board. "We are examining and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely," the British BBC quoted a statement as saying.
The company occasionally brings private individuals for a lot of money to the wreck of the world-famous "Titanic", which sank in 1912 and lies at a depth of 3800 meters at the bottom of the ocean. A billionaire British businessman and adventurer, who announced his participation on social media, is said to be among the occupants of the "Titan". The first thing to do now is to locate the submersible on the surface of the water or in the depths of the ocean, said Commander Mauger.
Several aircraft and ships as well as buoys with sonar on board would be used for this, which can record sounds at a depth of up to almost 4000 meters. Only when the exact location of the boat is clear can a possible rescue be tackled. In the large-scale rescue operation, the US Coast Guard is working with Canadian forces and private boats and merchant ships at the suspected location around 1500 kilometers east of the US metropolis of Boston.
Expedition should last eight days
The five missing people in the boat belonging to the private company Oceangate Expeditions reportedly started the dive on Sunday morning (local time). The crew of the Canadian escort ship "Polar Prince" lost contact after about an hour and 45 minutes. The submersible occasionally brings tourists to the "Titanic" from its home port of St. John's on the Canadian island of Newfoundland for $250,000 (229,000 euros) per person. Among them are a maximum of three tourists. The "Titan" is a submersible in the narrow sense, not a submarine, because it does not enter and leave ports under its own power. According to the company, the "Titan" is 6.70 meters long.
According to Oceangate, the company's tours, which depart from the Canadian island of Newfoundland, last a total of eight days. The company is promoting the carbon fiber submersible rides as a chance to "step out of the ordinary and discover something truly extraordinary," according to the BBC. The company recently announced that an expedition was on the way. According to the media, the alleged British participant wrote that it is likely to be the only such expedition this year.
The "Titanic" sank in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912, killing more than 1,500 of the 2,200 people on board. The remains of the famous luxury liner were discovered in 1985 at a depth of around 3800 meters. Films such as the blockbuster "Titanic" (1997) with Hollywood stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio further fueled interest in the disaster. Only recently, with the help of high-resolution 3D images, scientists offered the most accurate depiction of the wreck to date.
Difficult conditions for search operation
Ocean researcher Robert Blasiak from the Stockholm Resilience Center pointed out the difficult conditions in the search area. "The ocean is four kilometers deep on average, so this submarine is at a great depth," Blasiak told the BBC. Light penetrates a maximum of one kilometer into the sea surface, so it is pitch black with considerable water pressure at the same time. "We know where the Titanic is, but we don't know where the sub is, so it might not be nearly that deep, and we should all be hoping for that at this point."
Speaking to the BBC, University College London submarine expert Alistair Greig gave several possible scenarios for the incident. In the event of a power or communications failure, the sub could be driven to the surface. The situation would be much worse if the hull had been damaged and there was a leak. "Then the prognosis is not good," said Greig.
It would also be difficult if the submersible could no longer rise from the seabed under its own power. "Even though the submersible may still be intact, if it's deeper than 200 meters, there are very few vessels that can go that deep, let alone divers," the expert said. "Certainly, the vessels designed for the Navy's submarine rescue operation cannot go anywhere near the depths of the Titanic. And even if they could, I very much doubt they could attach to the tourist submersible's hatch."