A submersible craft that was taking people to see the wreck of the Titanic has gone missing in the Atlantic Ocean with its crew on board, sparking a major search and rescue operation.
The submersible belongs to OceanGate Expeditions, a private company that runs $250,000-a-seat expeditions to the wreck. The company said it was exploring all options to get the crew back safely and that it was receiving assistance from several government agencies and deep sea firms.
“Our entire focus is on the crewmembers in the submersible and their families,” OceanGate said in a statement. “We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to re-establish contact with the submersible.”
The U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard have launched a search and rescue operation to locate the submarine, which is believed to be OceanGate’s Titan submersible, a truck-sized sub that holds five people and usually dives with a four-day supply of oxygen.
The Coast Guard has deployed two aircraft to the area, a P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Halifax and a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 from Elizabeth City, N.C. The aircraft have underwater detection capabilities and can cover a large area of the ocean.
The Titanic sank in 1912 and lies some 3,800m (12,500ft) beneath the waves, about 600km (370 miles) off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The wreck lies in two parts, with the bow and the stern separated by about 800m (2,600ft). A huge debris field surrounds the broken vessel.
OceanGate Expeditions began taking small crews of “citizen scientists” to the Titanic shipwreck site in a five-person mini submersible two years ago. The company bills the eight-day trip on its carbon-fibre submersible as a “chance to step outside of everyday life and discover something truly extraordinary”.
According to its website, one expedition is ongoing and two more have been planned for June 2024. The submersible usually carries a pilot, three paying guests, and what the company calls a “content expert”. A full dive to the Titanic wreck, including the descent and ascent, reportedly takes around eight hours.
The company did not clarify the number of people on board the missing vessel or whether any of them were paying tourists. The cost for a tourist to visit the wreck is approximately $250,000 and includes an eight-day mission to site. Money raised during those tours goes toward furthering Titanic research.
Considered the world’s most famous shipwreck, the Titanic was an opulent 883-foot ocean liner. Thought to be “unsinkable,” it shocked the world in 1912 when it struck ice in the Atlantic Ocean and sank. More than 1,500 people died.
The wreckage was discovered in 1985 by a team led by oceanographer Robert Ballard. Since then, it has been extensively explored by various expeditions and has attracted tourists and researchers alike.
Last month, the first full-sized digital scan of the wreck was created using deep-sea mapping. The scan shows both the scale of the ship, as well as some minute details, such as the serial number on one of the propellers.
– Titanic exploration tourist submersible goes missing in the Atlantic Ocean, Global News, June 19, 2023
– Titanic tourist submersible goes missing with search under way, BBC News, June 19, 2023
– Submersible visiting Titanic wreck goes missing, prompting search, NBC News, June 19, 2023
– A search is underway for a missing submersible that brings tourists to the Titanic, Boise State Public Radio, June 19, 2023.