CBS report shows inner working of OceanGate’s Titanic sub
A major search and rescue mission is underway to find the missing submersible called Titan that dived on Sunday (June 18) to explore the wreckage of the Titanic.
The US Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, the Canadian Navy and Coast Guard as well as the private sector have since joined forces to find and rescue the submersible, although officials and experts have bluntly expressed how difficult this operation is.
The rescuers are fighting against time, as those aboard only have a limited supply of oxygen, with the Titan being designed to carry a total of 96 hours of oxygen. However, in the early hours of Wednesday, hope was renewed as a Canadian aircraft detected underwater ‘banging’ noises in the search area.
This came after US reports citing internal government memos said aircraft with underwater detection capabilities had picked up a banging sound every 30 minutes for several hours.
Here is what we know as the fourth day of search is underway.
Where was the submarine last seen?
The submersible was part of an eight-day journey, priced at £195,000 ($250,000) per person, aiming to explore the wreck of the Titanic, lying some 13,000ft underneath the ocean’s surface.
On Friday, the vessel left Canada’s Newfoundland accompanied by its support ship, the Polar Prince.
On Sunday morning, after reaching the wreck site located some 900 miles off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the vessel began its two-hour descent to the Titanic.
However, it lost contact with the Polar Prince approximately one hour and 45 minutes into its descent.
OceanGate Expeditions, the US private company owning the submersible and offering crewed vessel for industry, research and exploration, confirmed on June 19 that the Titan had gone missing while taking five passengers to the depth of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is not yet clear what caused the submersible to disappear and it is not known how close it was to the Titanic when it went missing.
The Titan went missing on Sunday
The research is focused on the area where the Titanic sunk in 1912
Where is the search focused?
The focus of the rescue operations is approximately in the same area where the wreck of the Titanic, which sunk in April 1912, some 435 miles south of St John’s in Newfoundland.
On the third day of the search, the approach remained two-pronged, with operations focusing both above and underneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Polar Prince already scouted the surface waters on Monday evening, and Canadian and US C-130 Hercules aircraft are continuing to search an area approximately 7,600 square miles wide in the hope the submersible had managed to re-emerge after encountering issues during the dive.
Simultaneously, rescuers are also venturing under the water, combing depths that could reach nearly 2.5 miles. Moreover, the Canadian P3 Aurora aircraft is conducting sonar searches and sonar buoys, able to detect moving objects, have been deployed in the area.
These, often used to hunt for enemy submarines, can dive several feet under the water and reach where the Titanic is.
READ MORE: Missing Titanic sub ‘has probably imploded’ by now as pressure is enormous
The Polar Prince was the Titan’s support vessel
- Titan is a five-person submersible made by private company OceanGate.
- It can descend up to 4,000 metres (2.5 miles or 13,123 feet) and travels at a speed of three knots (3.5mph)
- It is steered using an adapted video game controller
- Titan is made from carbon fibre and titanium and weighs 23,000lbs and designed to carry 96 hours of oxygen
- Typically, the vessel spends 10-11 hours underwater each dive
- It has limited power reserves and needs to be launched and recovered by a support ship
- There are no seats, one toilet and no windows – just a porthole
- The submersible is bolted from the outside before diving with 17 bolts
- The Titan has no GPS and is guided by text messages from the surface ship
- The vessel lost communications previously for two hours while on a dive with journalist David Pogue
The rescue operations are made particularly difficult not just by the fact the radio and GPS signals can’t travel through water, but also because the area where the Titanic is is pitch black, as sunlight can’t go any further than below 3,281ft under the surface.
While the reported detection of regular banging underwater may suggest “signs of life have been detected at the site”, as suggested by the Explorers’ Club of which two of the tourists in the Titan are members, rescuers still face the issue of locating the vessel.
After finding the vessel, the operation will move to its second phase – recovering the Titan. But if the submersible is on the seabed and can’t get back up under its own power, the options are very limited, according to Prof Alistair Greig, a submarine expert from University College London.
He told the BBC: “While the submersible might still be intact, if it is deeper than more than 656ft there are very few vessels that can get that deep, and certainly not divers. The vehicles designed for navy submarine rescue certainly can’t get down to anywhere near the depth of the Titanic.”
As a result, only an unmanned remotely operated vehicle could carry out this part of the operation should the Titan be located near the Titanic.
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Who is on board?
Officials haven’t released the names of the five people aboard the Titan. The families, co-workers, and friends of four of the passengers have however issued statements confirming who some of the people taking part in the botched exploration are.
The first passenger to have been named was British entrepreneur and three Guinness World Records holder Hamish Harding, 58.
Several friends of the explorer, who last June successfully took part in a space trip with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, have spoken about their concerns for the billionaire while also sharing how experienced an explorer he is.
On Tuesday, the family of two other passengers, father Shahzada Dawood, 48, and son Sulaiman Dawood, 19, issued a statement asking “everyone to pray for their safety”.
Hours later, OceanGate also said its CEO Stockton Rush, 61, is a fourth person aboard the Titan.
French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, is believed to be the fifth person on the vessel.
The Titanic sunk in April 1912
What happens when a submarine implodes?
Alongside the fear concerning the depleting supply of oxygen is also one regarding the integrity of the vessel.
The ocean pressure on the seabed where the Titanic is located is around 40MPa, approximately 390 times greater than that experienced on the surface.
Similar pressure can be sustained by the Titan’s hull, which can reach up to 13,123ft below sea level, but would kill within seconds human beings.
As the weight of the water exerts extreme pressure on the submersible at those depths, around 6,000lb on each square inch of its hull, a breach would result in the vessel and its passengers to be crushed.