At a depth of perhaps thousands of meters, there is a race against time. A tourist submersible from the company Oceangate, which was supposed to bring five people, including the pilot, to the wreck of the sunken Titanic, has been missing for two days. The boat is considered safe by experts and has seven different methods of getting back to the surface. However, it is not the first time that the "Titan" has disappeared for a few hours.
The submersible called "Titan" can dive up to 4000 meters into the deep sea. Oceangate thus takes researchers and wealthy tourists several times a year to the Titanic wreck, which lies at a depth of around 3800 meters. According to the company, the "Titan" is used for scientific exploration and data collection, but also for media production and deep-sea tests of hardware and software.
The boat is 6.70 meters long, 2.80 meters wide and about 2.50 meters high. It weighs 9525 kilograms and according to Oceangate can transport a weight of 685 kilograms. A total of five people fit in the carbon fiber boat. There is a primitive toilet on the Titan and fellow passengers are allowed to bring snacks.
In addition to the pilot, a scientist and three tourists are on board for the current dive – including the British billionaire Hamish Harding. The oxygen should last for a total of 96 hours, of which around 48 hours elapsed on Tuesday afternoon.
The submersible is driven out with an accompanying ship because it does not enter and leave ports under its own power. It is therefore a submersible, not a submarine. According to the company, its floating tanks are flooded with water "to enable a controlled descent to a depth of 9.1 meters and thus avoid surface turbulence."
A science reporter for the US television station "CBS", David Pogue, experienced a dive with the vehicle last year. "Large parts of this boat are improvised. It is controlled, for example, with an X-Box video game controller," explains Pogue on CBS. "But whoever built it and offers these rides has assured me that the part of the boat that is vital to survival was developed in conjunction with NASA and the University of Washington." This one is solid.
But the "Titan" was also lost for 2.5 hours during Pogue's dive. In the deep sea, it has neither GPS nor radio. Instead, the accompanying boat guides the "Titan" by text message, the reporter describes in a video contribution. That's why the pilot The Titanic wreck could not be found on the first dive. Such a dive usually takes twelve hours if everything works. It was only on the second dive that the passengers came close to the sunken luxury liner - communication was restored.
Before his dive, Pogue was concerned that the crew might run out of oxygen. That is unlikely with three different options for oxygen supply, Oceangate CEO Stockton Rush is said to have answered in an interview.
Individual cases over which the company has no influence are more dangerous: "Coming back to the surface, not being able to breathe anymore - we have that under control. The situations that you should worry about are the really rare ones. For example Getting caught in an abandoned fishing net that's miles long. Or a leak." Both are unlikely, but possible – and dangerous. And both are scenarios that could apply to the currently missing submersible.
Sources: Oceangate, CBS, CBS 2, news agency information