Sub Exploring Titanic Wreckage Goes Missing; Search Underway

The five-person vessel, which was being operated by OceanGate Expeditions, reportedly got lost last year during a similar dive.

A search continued Tuesday for a five-person submersible that vanished Sunday morning while transporting tourists to the Titanic wreckage at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The U.S. Coast Guard in Boston confirmed Monday that search efforts were ongoing off the coast of southeast Canada for a watercraft operated by OceanGate Expeditions.

The company said in a statement that it is exploring all options to bring the crew back safely.

“Our entire focus is on the crew members in the submersible and their families,” the statement read. “We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to reestablish contact with the submersible.”

The U.S. Coast Guard and OceanGate Expeditions did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

First Coast Guard District Rear Admiral John Mauger said in a press conference Monday that officials believe the vessel has “between 70 and the full 96 hours [of oxygen] available at this point.”

The U.S. Coast Guard said on Twitter that the Rescue Coordination Centre is assisting its search about 900 miles off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with an aircraft that is capable of detecting submarines.

The 21-foot submersible vanished shortly after launching from the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince, the Coast Guard said on Twitter. The Polar Prince appears to be the same vessel that’s used by OceanGate Expeditions.

“The 5 person crew submerged Sunday morning, and the crew of the Polar Prince lost contact with them approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes into the vessel’s dive,” the Coast Guard said on Twitter.

British explorer and businessman Hamish Harding was identified by his stepson on social media as among those on board and missing, according to The Telegraph.

Harding had posted on Facebook Saturday of his plans to visit the Titanic with OceanGate Expeditions as a mission specialist. He wrote that the dive, which was scheduled for around 4 a.m. Sunday, depended on the weather improving.

“The team on the sub has a couple of legendary explorers, some of which have done over 30 dives to the RMS Titanic since the 1980s including PH Nargeolet,” his post read.

Nargeolet has been praised by OceanGate Expeditions as a Titanic expert and French Navy veteran who has led several expeditions to the Titanic site. Nargeolet was piloting the vessel, Bloomberg said, citing reports. CNN has also not been able to reach Nargeolet despite several attempts to contact him.

Harding’s stepson, Brian Szasz, asked for prayers for his family. He later posted that his family was requesting privacy at this time.

Shahzada Dawood, a Pakistani businessman who lives in the U.K., and his son, Suleman Dawood, were also aboard, the family confirmed in a statement.

“As of now, contact has been lost with their submersible craft and there is limited information available,” they said. “We are very grateful for the concern being shown by our colleagues and friends and would like to request everyone to pray for their safety while granting the family privacy at this time.”

Sky News is also reporting that Stockton Rush, the CEO and founder of Oceangate Expeditions, was thought to be on the missing submersible.

Rush, in an interview with CBS News’ David Pogue last year featured in the “Unsung Science” podcast, seemed to recognize there was risk involved.

“You know, there’s a limit,” Rush said. “You know, at some point, safety just is pure waste. I mean, if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed. Don’t get in your car. Don’t do anything. At some point, you’re going to take some risk, and it really is a risk/reward question. I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules.”

Mike Reiss, a New York-based writer and producer who has been on the submersible, told “BBC Breakfast” Tuesday that passengers are required to sign a lengthy waiver before embarking on the trip, which mentions death “three times on page one.”

“Nobody who’s in this situation was caught off guard,” Reiss said. “You all know what you’re getting into.”

OceanGate Expeditions’ five-person submersible is able to travel roughly 2.5 miles below the water’s surface for 96 hours at a time, according to its website.

The company announced last year that it would be offering tourist trips to the wreckage starting this year, with eight-day expeditions costing around $250,000.

Its website states that an expedition was currently underway and scheduled to end Tuesday.

Pogue, who completed a Titanic dive with OceanGate last year for “CBS Sunday Morning,” recalled on Monday that OceanGate’s submersible can have difficulty making the miles-long trek to the ocean floor and that it got lost at one point during a Titanic dive last year.

In his reporting last year, bad weather was blamed for repeatedly delaying dives, and one trip was ultimately scrapped. Another time the submersible got lost and never reached the wreckage; those on board were offered a do-over for this year.

“We were lost for two and a half hours,” passenger Shrenik Baldota told CBS News.

According to Pogue’s reporting, the vessel is piloted with a video game controller and guided to the shipwreck with directions that are sent by text message.

Pogue on Monday expressed hope, noting that the vessel has hours’ worth of oxygen and seven different ways to rise to the surface, if needed. If the vessel is unable to reach the surface, he theorized that it got tangled in a massive abandoned fishing net or sprung a leak.

“Both are very, very serious,” he tweeted.

The RMS Titanic sank in 1912 after striking an iceberg during its maiden voyage, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew. Its wreckage — located about 2.5 miles below the ocean surface and 350 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada — wasn’t found until 1985.

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