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A former passenger details what it's like inside the missing Titan submersible
Mary Louise Kelly
This undated photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions in June 2021 shows the company's Titan submersible. AP hide caption
This undated photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions in June 2021 shows the company's Titan submersible.
The missing submersible that was on its way to view the wreckage from the Titanic relies on a number of "off-the-shelf parts" including a video game controller to steer it, but is also equipped with several mechanisms that can bring it back to the surface during an emergency, according to a former passenger.
CBS Sunday Morning correspondent David Pogue went on the OceanGate Titan in November for an assignment, and said it was like being in a "minivan without seats."
"There's a couple of computer screens and there is one round window at the end, about 21 inches across," he told NPR on Tuesday. "And when you're visiting the Titanic, you take turns looking out the porthole."
Missing Titanic sub search enters a critical phase as the Titan's oxygen supply drops
"There are two pilots, one of which is Stockton Rush, the sub's designer and the CEO, and he drives the sub with a game controller ... It has the right levers and buttons to go up, down, left, right and so on. And his argument is, it might look cheap and consumery, but it's a tried and true, very reliable component and it does exactly what we need."
"The main thing, though, is that the part we care about, that carbon fiber tube ... was designed in conjunction with NASA and the University of Washington, and was intended to be failsafe."
As of Tuesday evening, the international rescue effort to find the sub and the five people on board was ongoing.
In an interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, Pogue details what it's like preparing to travel on the Titan, and the potential scenarios that its current riders might have encountered.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
On the preparation that went into his trip on the Titan
We got in-depth tours of the Titan itself inside and outside. We learned the parts of it. There really is no safety gear in there except for a fire extinguisher and fire masks, which we practiced putting on and taking off. That's pretty much it, because there's not much you can do if something goes wrong.
Deep sea rescues have a mixed track record. The Pisces III is one that succeeded
What you can do is rise to the surface. And there are seven different ways to return to the surface. Just redundancy after redundancy. They can drop sandbags, they can drop lead pipes, they can inflate a balloon, they can use the thrusters. They can even jettison the legs of the sub to lose weight. And some of these, by the way, work even if the power is out and even if everyone on board is passed out. So there's sort of a dead man's switch such that the hooks holding on to sandbags dissolve after a certain number of hours in the water, release the sandbags and bring you to the surface, even if you're unconscious.
On why the missing vessel has not yet been located
We really have no idea. I mean, the waves are six feet high. It's all whitecaps. The sub itself is white. I don't know how an airplane is going to expect to find it in hundreds of miles of rough seas. So for all we know, they are floating somewhere on the surface right now. And the tragedy of that is you're bolted in from the outside. There's 18 bolts that seal you inside. You can't get out without assistance from an external crew. So that would be the real nightmare scenario: they're alive and floating and unable to escape.
On the problems he ran into during his trip
My trip was not smooth. We made it 37 feet down and then they ran into a mechanical problem and we had to abort the dive. I was devastated, and crushed, and did not see it coming. But I have since learned that these dives rarely go to plan. With each of these expeditions that OceanGate makes, they spend five days over the [Titanic] shipwreck. And typically of those five days, they managed to get down only once or twice. And this season it's been zero.
Visiting the remains of the once-great Titanic has become a tourist drawcard in recent years. Topical Press Agency/Getty Images hide caption
On what compels someone to take a journey on the Titan — despite the dangers
These dives take place in international waters. So there is no governing body. And I will tell you that when we boarded the surface vessel, we signed waivers that would curl your toes. I mean, it was basically a list of eight paragraphs describing ways that you could be permanently disabled or killed.
So this is not a tourist company or an airline, you know, for the masses. This is for rich adrenaline junkie adventurers who thrive on the risk. It's a lifestyle that not all of us may be able to identify with. But for them, you know, the risk is the life.
Inside the Titanic tourist submersible missing with 5 people
The Titanic tourist submersible missing with five people aboard is a simple and small vessel with a carpeted floor instead of seats and barely enough room inside for more than one person at a time to stretch out, according to previous passengers and promotional documents.
The Titan vessel, part of an OceanGate Expeditions tour, vanished Sunday during a mission to explore the wreckage of the Titanic.
Rescuers have less than 40 hours left to find the submersible before its oxygen supply runs out, the U.S. Coast Guard said around midday Tuesday amid an ongoing search. The company’s specs for the vessel say it’s equipped with 96 hours of oxygen.
Follow along for live coverage on the missing sub
The passengers who have been identified are OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush, British billionaire Hamish Harding, French diver Paul Henry Nargeolet, prominent Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman.
The Titan's dimensions are 22 feet by 9.2 feet by 8.3 feet, according to a diagram of the vessel used in promotional documents. Only one of the passengers is able to fully extend their legs in the diagram, which describes the arrangement as the “typical seating configuration.”
There’s no traditional toilet aboard the vessel, which is steered with a video game controller, previous passengers have detailed.
“It’s basically a car that you drunkenly drove into the ocean,” Mike Reiss, a writer and producer who has worked on “The Simpsons” and who took the trip last year, said on his podcast .
Getting into the vessel itself was the “most dangerous part,” Reiss said. The New York-based writer said he had to scramble up a 6-foot “kitchen ladder” that was leaned against the submersible as the ladder bobbed in the waves.
Once he reached the tiny entry hatch at the top, he said he then had to “plunge blindly” about 6 feet into “total darkness.” Inside the sub, Reiss said, the environment was cool, dimly lit and quiet.
“The sub’s interior was about the same as a minivan,” Reiss said, adding that there was a carpeted floor instead of seats. He and the other passengers sprawled out on the carpet as the vessel made its descent to the bottom of the ocean.
But problems greeted the crew the moment the Titan touched down. Reiss said a “loud squawk” came over the radio, saying everything was broken, including the sonar, the computer and the lights.
Reiss said they all went back up to the surface immediately and spent the next three days on a tugboat while the Titan was repaired.
Reiss said he and the other passengers were well aware of the hazards of the rare voyage. In a recent interview with Seattle-based television station KIRO , Reiss said he had to sign a “long, long waiver that mentions possible death three times on the first page.”
Other Titan passengers have described running into challenges on their journey.
David Pogue, a CBS News correspondent, said the submersible got “lost on the sea floor for a few hours” during his trip to visit the Titanic’s resting place last year.
“On my expedition last summer, they did indeed get lost for about 5 hours,” Pogue tweeted Monday. A segment on the trip aired in November .
Pogue wasn’t in the submersible but was in a control room on a ship at the surface at the time.
He noted the submersible never lost communication with its mother ship. He said the Titan didn’t have a beacon similar to an aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter, but “such a beacon was discussed.”
“They could still send short texts to the sub, but did not know where it was. It was quiet and very tense, and they shut off the ship’s internet to prevent us from tweeting,” he tweeted Monday. The company claimed it was to keep all channels open in case of a serious emergency, Pogue said.
The Titan is designed to take five people to depths of about 13,000 feet, according to OceanGate’s website . It is made of carbon fiber and titanium and weighs about 23,000 pounds, the company said.
On its website, OceanGate said Titan is “outfitted with state-of-the-art lighting and sonar navigation systems plus internally and externally mounted 4K video and photographic equipment.”
The price of a spot on the submersible was $250,000. It was only on its third Titanic trip since OceanGate Expeditions began offering them in 2021.
Ben Goggin is the deputy editor for technology at NBC News Digital.
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9 feet wide, 8 feet tall, no seats: Inside Titanic submersible that likely imploded
The Titan had one toilet and no seats; passengers sit cross-legged on the floor.
Breaking update: The submersible that vanished while on a tour of the Titanic wreckage likely imploded, killing all five people aboard, the Coast Guard says. Read more here .
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- A submersible on a tour of the wreckage of the Titanic was reported overdue by OceanGate Inc. on Sunday, prompting a Coast Guard search effort for the 22-foot, 23,000-pound vessel.
The submersible had a four-day oxygen supply when it put to sea around 6 a.m. Sunday, according to David Concannon, an adviser to OceanGate Expeditions, which oversaw the mission.
Stockton Rush founded Washington-based OceanGate Inc. in 2009 to make deep-ocean exploration more accessible to scientists and tourists.
Fourteen years, more than 200 dives and three submersible designs later, the company now finds itself in a desperate search to recover the submersible carrying five people aboard that's gone missing off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
How is the submersible constructed?
OceanGate has operated three submersibles since its inception, with the first two vessels -- the Antipodes and Cyclops 1 -- able to reach 1,000 feet and 1,640 feet, respectively.
OceanGate's only submersible able to reach the Titanic's wreckage is called the Titan, a carbon-fiber and titanium vessel that can reach 13,123 feet, the company says on its website. (The Titanic rests 12,400 feet under the surface).
"It's not a ride at Disney, you know," OceanGate Expeditions software security expert Aaron Newman said in a promotional video for the expedition. "There's a lot of real risk involved, and there's a lot of challenges."
The vessel is primarily constructed of lightweight carbon fiber, which is spun into a rigid tube for the vessel's body, specification sheets show. Two titanium caps are secured to the carbon-fiber body, with one cap including a thick transparent porthole.
Nine feet wide and only 8 feet tall, the Titan leaves little room for its passengers, who sit on a subfloor inside the carbon-fiber tube. A photo in the Titan's specification sheet shows five passengers seated on the vessel's floor with limited room to move or stand.
There is only one toilet, and no seats; passengers sit cross legged on the floor. There are no windows except the porthole through which passengers view the Titanic.
It's a "tiny vessel, quite cramped and small," said CNN correspondent Gabe Cohen, who sat in Titan in 2018 while reporting on OceanGate Expeditions for CNN affiliate KOMO. "You have to sit inside of it, shoes off."
In case of an emergency, the submersible is equipped with basic emergency medical supplies and pilots have basic first aid training, according to OceanGate Expeditions' website.
Experience as a passenger
Aaron Newman, who has been a passenger on the Titan, told NBC's "Today" show Wednesday that if the submersible is below a couple hundred meters and without power, the passengers are in complete darkness and it's cold.
"It was cold when we were at the bottom," he said. "You had layered up. You had wool hats on and were doing everything to stay warm at the bottom."
WATCH: Man talks about his voyage to the Titanic and the conditions his friend may be facing
He said describing the missing passengers as "tourists" is a misnomer.
"These are people who lived on the edge and loved what they were doing. If anything's going on, these are people that are calm and thinking this through and doing what they can to stay alive," Newman said, adding that he felt safe and in the hands of professionals on his descent. "It's a good set of people."
John "Danny" Olivas, a retired astronaut who has completed two stays on NASA's underwater habitat and trained on underwater spacewalks, told CNN that the expedition is "a very stressful situation."
"There probably wouldn't be any cabin air circulation, which could also pose a lot of potential hazards with just breathing the air. The oxygen is important, but also CO2 generation by five people in a small, confined vessel is going to be very challenging and potentially creating a poisonous environment for the crew members," Olivas told CNN's Victor Blackwell.
Mike Reiss, who has done four, 10-hour dives with OceanGate, including one to the Titanic, told ABC News his sub lost contact with the host ship on every dive.
"Every time they lost communication -- that seems to be just something baked into the system," he said.
With no GPS, Reiss said it took his crew three hours to find the Titanic despite landing just 500 yards from the ship.
Reiss said he signed "a waiver that mentions death three times on the first page."
"It is always in the back of your head that this is dangerous, and any small problem will turn into a major catastrophe," he said.
He said the submersible is built simply and is "just propelled by two fans on the outside."
"Even I was able to steer and navigate the sub for a while," he noted.
Reiss said his greatest fear was that the sub wouldn't be able to release the weights that force it to submerge once it was time to rise to the surface.
The Associated Press and CNN Wire contributed to this report.
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Watch CBS News
What we know about the tourist sub that disappeared on an expedition to the Titanic
By Emily Mae Czachor
Updated on: June 23, 2023 / 11:35 PM EDT / CBS News
Five people on board the tourist submarine that disappeared on an expedition to explore the Titanic shipwreck over the weekend did not survive a "catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber," officials said Thursday.
The announcement came after the U.S. Coast Guard said the massive search underway in the North Atlantic had located a debris field on the sea floor, which was confirmed to be pieces of the missing sub .
"The debris field is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel," Rear Adm. John Mauger of the Coast Guard said at a briefing, offering "deepest condolences to the families." A spokesperson for OceanGate Expeditions, the company behind the voyage, told reporters that the passengers, including OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, "have sadly been lost."
Here's what we know so far about the submersible craft and what led up to this point.
A five-person crew on a submersible named Titan, owned by OceanGate Expeditions, submerged on a dive to the Titanic wreckage site Sunday morning, and the crew of the Polar Prince research ship lost contact with the sub about an hour and 45 minutes later, the Coast Guard said .
The Coast Guard first alerted mariners about the missing sub Sunday night, saying a "21 foot submarine" with a white hull was overdue and giving its last known position. "VESSELS IN VICINITY REQUESTED TO KEEP A SHARP LOOKOUT, ASSIST IF POSSIBLE," the alert message read.
The sub was lost in an area about 900 miles east of Cape Cod, in the North Atlantic, in water with a depth of about 13,000 feet, which is about level with the depth of the Titanic wreck . Amid growing concern about its dwindling supply of breathable air , search and rescue efforts by a unified command composed of several international agencies ramped up accordingly.
The five people aboard included an operator — later identified as Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions — and four mission specialists, a term the company uses for its passengers, who paid up to $250,000 for a seat.
For days, the fate of the sub and its passengers was a mystery.
But after the debris was found, a U.S. Navy official said the Navy had detected "an acoustic anomaly consistent with an implosion" shortly after the sub lost contact with the surface Sunday, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported. The information was relayed to the Coast Guard, which used it to narrow the radius of the search area, the official said.
Such an implosion, under the intense pressure of the depths of the sea , would have destroyed the vessel almost instantly, experts explained.
"in a fraction of a second, it's gone," Will Kohnen, chairman of the professional group the Marine Technology Society Submarine Committee, told the Reuters news agency.
"It implodes inwards in a matter of a thousandth of a second," Kohnen said. "And it's probably a mercy, because that was probably a kinder end than the unbelievably difficult situation of being four days in a cold, dark and confined space. So, this would have happened very quickly. I don't think anybody even had the time to realize what happened."
The Coast Guard is leading the investigation into the incident, and the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday it will assist.
Who were the passengers aboard the sub?
CBS News confirmed that the five people aboard the submersible were Hamish Harding , a 59-year-old British billionaire, business owner and explorer; British-Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman; French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, who had made multiple dives over the years to explore the Titanic; and Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, who was serving as pilot.
Just ahead of the Coast Guard briefing Thursday afternoon, a statement issued by OceanGate spokesperson Andrew Von Kerens offered condolences to the families of the Titan crew and recognized that all five people on board the submersible were believed to be dead.
"These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans," the company said in the statement. "Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."
When the Coast Guard confirmed the sub's likely implosion on Thursday, Mauger said they were communicating with consulates general in both the U.K. and France.
The Dawood family, of the large Pakistan-based global business conglomerate Dawood Group, issued a statement Tuesday confirming their family members were on the expedition.
"Please continue to keep the departed souls and our family in your prayers during this difficult time of mourning," the Hussain and Kulsum Dawood family said Thursday in a statement through the Dawood Foundation. "We are truly grateful to all those involved in the rescue operations. ... The immense love and support we receive continues to help us endure this unimaginable loss."
Nargeolet, a renowned French explorer and former diver for the French Navy who was part of the first expedition to visit the Titanic wreck in 1987, was returning for another dive aboard the Titan submersible.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Rory Golden, an explorer who became the first Irish diver to visit the Titanic wreckage in 2000, said he was part of the voyage but was not on the submersible that went missing.
Search and rescue efforts
Authorities said early Thursday morning that a Canadian vessel, Horizon Arctic, had deployed a remotely operated underwater vehicle that reached the sea floor . The ROV ultimately located what the Coast Guard originally described as a debris field on the sea floor, which included identifiable pieces of the sub, authorities confirmed that afternoon.
"This morning, an ROV, or remote operated vehicle, from the vessel Horizon Arctic, discovered the tail cone of the Titan submersible approximately 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic on the sea floor," said Mauger at a news briefing. "The ROV subsequently found additional debris. In consultation with experts from within the unified command, the debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber."
"Upon this determination, we immediately notified the families," he added. "On behalf of the United States Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families. I can only imagine what this has been like for them and I hope that this discovery provides some solace during this difficult time."
Mauger said authorities were "still working to develop the details for the timeline involved with this casualty and the response," and referenced the "incredibly complex operating environment along the sea floor, over two miles beneath the surface."
Paul Hankins, an undersea expert for the U.S. Navy, explained during the news conference that crews discovered "five different major pieces of debris that told us that it was the remains of the Titan." These pieces included, initially, the nose cone, which was outside of the pressure hull.
"We then found a large debris field," Hankins said. "Within that large debris field, we found the front end bell of the pressure hull. That was our first indication that there was a catastrophic event."
A second, smaller debris field was located shortly after, and the debris found there "comprised the totality of that pressure vessel," Hankins said.
"The debris field is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel," he said, adding that the team will continue to map the debris field area.
Asked by a reporter what the prospects were for recovering the passengers, Mauger said, "This is an incredibly unforgiving environment down there on the sea floor, and the debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel. So we'll continue to work and continue to search the area down there, but I don't have an answer for prospects at this time."
Discovering the Titan debris came after multiple agencies from the U.S. and Canada spent days scouring thousands of square miles of open ocean in search of the missing sub.
The U.S. Coast Guard announced Wednesday that underwater noises were detected in the search area and that searches involving ROVs were focusing on the area where the noises were heard .
On Wednesday, three more vessels had arrived to join the search, including one with side-scan sonar capabilities designed to create images of large sections of the sea floor, the Coast Guard said in a tweet . That vessel began conducting search patterns alongside at least two others, as multiple military and other agencies worked together under a unified command.
Frederick said Wednesday there were five "surface assets" involved in the search , and another five were expected to join the operation within the next 24 to 48 hours. He said the team also had two ROVs "actively searching," with several more due to arrive to join the search Thursday.
The Coast Guard said it had C-130 aircraft searching for the sub, and that the Rescue Coordination Center Halifax was assisting with a P-8 Poseidon aircraft, which has underwater detection capabilities. Canadian P-3s were also involved in the operation and deployed sonar buoys.
Just after midnight Wednesday, officials said aircraft had detected underwater noises in the search area, and underwater search operations were relocated as a result, though the origin of the noises remained unknown. The sounds were picked up several times Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, according to the Coast Guard.
"With respect to the noises, specifically, we don't know what they are, to be frank with you," Frederick said. "The P-3 detected noises, that's why they're up there, that's why they're doing what they're doing, that's why there are sonar buoys in the water."
News of the vanished submersible and subsequent rescue mission originally broke Monday morning. At the time, Lt. Jordan Hart of the Coast Guard in Boston told CBS News that personnel there were leading the rescue mission, and focusing on waters off Newfoundland in eastern Canada.
The Boston Regional Coordination Center was managing the rescue operation, as the location of the Titanic shipwreck falls within the Boston coordination center's territory, according to a map of jurisdictions along the East Coast of North America.
That combined search area grew to about twice the size of the state of Connecticut, and the subsurface search extended down as far as 2 and a half miles deep, Frederick said, stressing that the search and rescue teams were dealing with an incredibly complex set of circumstances.
"We also have to factor in the ever-changing weather conditions, currents and sea states that expand the search area every hour," he said earlier in the week. "There's an enormous complexity associated with this case due to the location being so far offshore and the coordination between multiple agencies and nations. We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support and offers to provide additional equipment."
What caused the noises?
Frederick acknowledged that the sounds detected underwater by Canadian aircraft could have been caused by multiple sources.
Following the discovery of the sub debris on the sea floor, a U.S. Navy source told CBS News that the implosion would be inconsistent with banging noises heard at 30-minute intervals. Those noises, the official said, are now assessed as having come from other ships in the area.
Carl Hartsfield, an expert in underwater acoustics and the director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which is on-site at the search area as a consultant, explained that it can be challenging to differentiate between "human sounds" and "nature sounds" coming from beneath the surface.
"The ocean is a very complex place, obviously, human sounds, nature sounds, and it's very difficult to discern what the sources of those noises are at times," Hartsfield said.
Before the sub was found, Chris Roman, an associate professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, told CBS News that, technically, it was possible that sounds from inside a submersible could have been detected, but that wasn't the only potential source of the noise.
"Sound travels very efficiently underwater. If people were intentionally making noises within the sub, it's very likely they could be detected with a sound buoy, and that position can be translated into a new search area," Roman said. But he also noted that, as Frederick mentioned in his briefing, "there's a lot of other things in the ocean that make noises."
The unique submersible craft that disappeared was owned by OceanGate Expeditions , a company that deploys manned submarines for deep sea exploration and has in the past advertised this particular sub's voyages to carry tourists down to the wreckage of the RMS Titanic for $250,000 per seat.
More than a century after the Titanic sank in April 1912, the wreck lies on the ocean floor about 400 miles southeast of the Newfoundland coast.
OceanGate said recently on its website and on social media that its expedition to the shipwreck was "underway," describing the seven-night trip as a "chance to step outside of everyday life and discover something truly extraordinary." In addition to one ongoing expedition, the company had planned two others for the summer of next year, according to the site.
Because of the sub's oxygen capacity, it can only be fully submerged for a portion of the weeklong voyage. The sub has emergency oxygen and a 96-hour sustainment capability if there's an emergency aboard, Mauger said.
In a statement Monday after news broke of the missing sub, OceanGate confirmed the missing submersible was theirs and that a rescue operation had been launched to find and recover it. The company said it was "exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely."
"For some time, we have been unable to establish communications with one of our submersible exploration vehicles which is currently visiting the wreck site of the Titanic," said Andrew Von Kerens, a spokesperson for OceanGate. "We pray for the safe return of the crew and passengers, and we will provide updates as they are available."
Inside the Titan
Dubbed the Titan, OceanGate's deep sea vessel, was said to be the only five-person submersible in the world with the capabilities to reach the Titanic's depth, nearly 2 and a half miles beneath the ocean's surface, CBS "Sunday Mornings" correspondent David Pogue reported last year.
BBC News reported that the vessel typically carries a pilot, three paying guests and another person described as a "content expert" by the company. OceanGate's site says the Titan, weighing around 23,000 pounds, has the ability to reach depths of up to 4,000 meters — over 13,000 feet — and has about 96 hours of life support for a crew of five people.
Last summer, Pogue accompanied the Titan crew on the journey from Newfoundland to the site where the Titanic as lost. Several dive attempts had to be canceled when weather conditions indicated it may not be safe. At the time, he described the Titan as a one-of-a-kind submersible craft made from thick carbon fiber and coated on both ends by a dome of titanium.
In 2018, a former employee of OceanGate Expeditions, submersible pilot David Lochridge, voiced concerns about the safety of the Titanic tour sub and filed a lawsuit against the company .
Lochridge, who was fired by OceanGate and sued by the company for allegedly disclosing confidential information in a whistleblower complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said in a court filing that the Titan would carry passengers as deep as 4,000 meters even though that depth had never been reached in a sub with its type of carbon fiber hull. According to his claim, he learned the vessel was built to withstand a certified pressure of 1,300 meters, although OceanGate planned to take passengers to 4,000 meters.
Lochridge was not the only skeptic. The same year his complaint was filed, other industry leaders approached OceanGate with questions about the safety of its submersible. William Kohnen, president and CEO of Hydrospace Group, outlined his concerns in a 2018 letter to OceanGate, originally published by The New York Times, that warned of potentially "catastrophic" issues with the "experimental" sub, which was not certified. Kohnen told CBS News on Wednesday that although he did not send it, the letter was leaked to OceanGate and prompted the company to "amend a number of details that made sure the public knew" the submersible had not received its certification.
"The letter to Oceangate was meant as a professional courtesy to the CEO expressing industry concerns that the company was not following a traditional classification route for the certification of the submersible," Kohnen said. "The industry operates along an established and dynamic set of safety regulations and protocols that have served the submersible industry worldwide."
Ahead of his planned dive last summer, Pogue recalled signing paperwork that read, in part, "This experimental vessel has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body, and could result in physical injury, emotional trauma, or death."
Space inside the submarine was similar to the interior of a minivan, and, with just one button and a video game controller used to steer it, the vessel "seemed improvised, with off-the-shelf components," Pogue said.
On his voyage, the sub was lost for a few hours , Pogue said.
"There's no GPS underwater, so the surface ship is supposed to guide the sub to the shipwreck by sending text messages," he reported at the time. "But on this dive, communications somehow broke down."
You may remember that the @OceanGateExped sub to the #Titanic got lost for a few hours LAST summer, too, when I was aboard…Here’s the relevant part of that story. https://t.co/7FhcMs0oeH pic.twitter.com/ClaNg5nzj8 — David Pogue (@Pogue) June 19, 2023
Were conditions right for the dive?
G. Michael Harris, founder of RMS Titanic, Inc. — a company that salvages artifacts from the Titanic wreckage — told CBS News on Tuesday evening that Titanic expeditions are generally conducted within a "three-month weather window" between the end of June and September, when the ocean waters are at their calmest.
Harris, who has led several expeditions to the wreckage site, questioned why the Titan's dive was conducted as early as Sunday.
"Right now, it's really early in the season. I'm not sure why OceanGate went out this soon," Harris said.
Harris also noted that when he conducts diving expeditions, he uses a transponder system, something that he believed the Titan likely did not have.
"It's a net that we navigate in so that we know where we are at all times on the wreck of the Titanic," Harris said. "We're in constant communication with the vessel up top."
Harris said the Titan was "put on a sled and dumped in the water and their only navigation is from the support ship up top."
"I don't adhere to that myself, personally," Harris said.
Harris noted that he has worked with Nargeolet, who is listed as director of underwater research for RMS Titanic, for the past 30 years, describing him as an "all-around good guy."
Who was Hamish Harding?
Harding, the first of the passengers to be publicly identified, had previously posted on social media about joining the Titanic shipwreck expedition.
In a post shared to his Facebook page on Saturday, Harding wrote: "I am proud to finally announce that I joined OceanGate Expeditions for their RMS TITANIC Mission as a mission specialist on the sub going down to the Titanic."
I am proud to finally announce that I joined OceanGate Expeditions for their RMS TITANIC Mission as a mission specialist... Posted by Hamish Harding on Saturday, June 17, 2023
"Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023," Harding's Facebook post continued. "A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow. We started steaming from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada yesterday and are planning to start dive operations around 4am tomorrow morning. Until then we have a lot of preparations and briefings to do."
That post was Harding's most recent social media update related to the submarine trip. It included multiple photographs of him, including one that showed Harding signing his name on a banner that read "Titanic Expedition Mission V" and another that pictured the submersible vessel itself.
Richard Garriott de Cayeux, president of The Explorers Club, where Harding helped found the board of trustees, said they had spoken just a week earlier about the expedition.
"When I saw Hamish last week at the Global Exploration Summit, his excitement about this expedition was palpable. I know he was looking forward to conducting research at the site," he said in a letter to club members after the sub's disappearance.
Harding was a veteran adventure tourist who also traveled to space aboard a Blue Origin rocket last year. Two years ago, he made it to the deepest part of the ocean, traveling with U.S. explorer Victor Vescovo to the floor of the Mariana Trench, 35,876 feet below the sea surface. That trip, in a $48 million submersible, earned both explorers the Guinness World Record for the longest distance traveled at the deepest part of the ocean by a crewed vessel.
"It was potentially scary, but I was so busy doing so many things — navigating and triangulating my position — that I did not really have time to be scared," Harding told The Week after that excursion.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Monday, June 19. Reporting contributed by Emmet Lyons, Roxana Saberi, Alex Sundby, Aimee Picchi, Aliza Chasan, Li Cohen, Caroline Hinson, Anna Noryskiewicz, Analisa Novak and other CBS News staff.
- RMS Titanic
- United States Coast Guard
Emily Mae Czachor is a reporter and news editor at CBSNews.com. She covers breaking news, often focusing on crime and extreme weather. Emily Mae has previously written for outlets including the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed and Newsweek.
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June 20, 2023
10 min read
What Happened to Imploded Titanic Tourist Sub?
The tourist submersible Titan imploded while diving to visit the wreckage of the Titanic, which sank in 1912
By Meghan Bartels & Jeanna Bryner
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Captain Jamie Frederick speaks during a press conference about the search efforts for the submersible that went missing near the wreck of the Titanic at USCG Base Boston on June 20, 2023. The Titan submersible with five people onboard has “about 40 hours of breathable air” left, Frederick said on Tuesday.
Joseph Prezioso/Getty Images
Editor’s Note (6/23/23): On June 22 the U.S. Coast Guard announced that a remotely operated vehicle found debris from the Titan submersible. OceanGate Expeditions, the company that owns the vehicle, declared that the Titan and all five people onboard were lost. For more on the deep-sea environment where the debris was discovered, read “ See How Crushing Pressures Increase in the Ocean’s Depths .”
During a descent to visit the wreckage of the famed Titanic ocean liner, a submersible craft called the Titan went missing with five people onboard. The vehicle lost communications on Sunday in the North Atlantic Ocean, several hundred miles off Newfoundland. On the following Thursday, after days of searches from the air and with remotely operated vehicles on the seafloor, the U.S. Coast Guard announced the discovery of debris from the sub that is consistent with a catastrophic implosion.
All five crew members are assumed to be dead, according to a press briefing and news outlets.
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A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) connected to the ship Horizon Arctic “discovered the tail cone of the Titan submersible approximately 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic on the seafloor,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger during the press briefing on Thursday. After finding additional debris, including the other end of the pressure chamber, experts agreed “the debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber,” Mauger said. (The pressure chamber, or pressure vessel, is the interior compartment of the submersible, which is designed to withstand the crushing pressure of the deep ocean .)
Rescue teams and anyone following the story seemed to be holding out hope that the crew of five were still alive and able to survive on the 96 hours of oxygen thought to be onboard the sub at its descent. But at the briefing, Carl Hartsfield, a retired U.S. Navy captain and a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said the evidence points to an implosion in the water column. And this could have occurred as early as when the submersible lost contact with the surface less than two hours into its excursion. The Titanic shipwreck lies some 12,500 feet beneath the sea surface, where pressures increase to about 375 atmospheres , or the equivalent of 5,500 pounds of force pressing in on every square inch of an object’s surface.
Here’s what to know about the now imploded submersible, the perils of deep-sea exploration and what’s next in the investigation process.
What parts of the submersible did the ROV find?
“We found five different major pieces of debris that told us that it was the remains of the Titan ,” said Paul Hankins, director of salvage operations and ocean engineering at the U.S. Navy, during the press briefing. The searchers’ initial find was the nose cone, followed by a large debris field, where they discovered the front end of the pressure hull. “That was the first indication there was a catastrophic event,” Hankins said. In another span of debris, a smaller one, they found the other end of the pressure hull, which “basically comprised the totality of the pressure vessel.”
Did the sub collide with wreckage from the Titanic?
The preliminary answer seems to be no. The ROV found the remains of the Titan sub a far distance from the shipwreck. “That’s off the bow of Titanic ,” Hartsfield said during Thursday’s briefing. “It’s in an area where there is not any debris of Titanic —it is a smooth bottom. To my knowledge ... there is no Titanic wreckage in that area.” Hartsfield added that the finding is consistent with the location of the last communication with the sub. “And the size of the debris field is consistent with that implosion in the water column,” he said.
Also consistent with a water column implosion at the time of communication loss is the fact that the sonar buoys that were deployed on Monday did not pick up any sign of an implosion, according to Mauger.
Mauger was leading the search operation, which is complete now, he said at the briefing. Over the next 24 hours, his team will demobilize the nine vessels, medical personnel and other equipment on the scene. “But we’re going to continue remote operations on the seafloor,” he said.
As for whether this catastrophe will lead to an evaluation of safety measures for submersibles, Mauger said, “there’s a lot of questions about why, how, when this happened. And the members of the unified command have those questions, too, as professionals and experts that work in this environment. And this is an incredibly difficult and dangerous environment to work in out there.” (The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Canadian Coast Guard and OceanGate Expeditions, the deep-sea tourism company that operated the Titan , had established a unified command to respond to the incident.)
Mauger said he expects that “questions about the regulations that apply and the standards, that is going to be the focus of future review. Right now, we’re focused on documenting the scene and continuing the seafloor operation.”
What is the Titan, and where did it disappear?
The Titan was a submersible. That means it was a small vehicle used for making excursions from another base craft rather than a submarine that has enough power to get to and from port on its own. The vehicle was about 22 feet long and held a pilot and four passengers—each of whom reportedly paid $250,000 for a ticket to see the famous shipwreck. According to the New York Times , on this expedition, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush served as pilot, accompanied by French maritime expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, British businessman and explorer Hamish Harding, and British-Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman.
The Titan had hitched a ride to the Titanic ’s resting spot—about 400 miles east-southeast off Newfoundland—with a Canadian research ship called the Polar Prince . The latter ship deployed the submersible on Sunday morning. The Titan was last heard from an hour and 45 minutes after starting its descent.
Remote expeditions like this are inherently dangerous, says Jules Jaffe, a research oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, who helped find the Titanic in 1985.. “You’re all on your own, so if anything goes wrong, you better have enough safety backups to make sure that you can get back out,” he says.
How common are deep-sea incidents like this?
Jaffe says he doesn’t know of other incidents similar to this one, although the U.S. has lost military submarines before. But there simply haven’t been all that many deep-sea expeditions like the Titan ’s to start with. The number of people who have visited depths as low as the Titanic ’s resting place probably wouldn’t fill a commercial passenger jet.
What’s it like to make a deep-sea dive in a submersible?
One of the people who has visited such depths is Dawn Wright, an oceanographer and chief scientist at a mapping company called Esri. In 2022 Wright visited Challenger Deep, the deepest point in Earth’s oceans at nearly 36,000 feet below sea level. The Titanic itself lies at a depth of 12,500 feet—still remarkably far down. Even on a fast submersible, the descent is a slow process, Wright says. “It’s a beautiful experience,” she adds. “It’s actually very, very peaceful.”
Wright says submersibles are fully under the control of their pilot, so she herself hasn’t had to do a lot of preparation for her expeditions. This allowed her to focus on scientific observations during the trip to Challenger Deep. “There is a lot to know about the submersible, but there’s not as much as one might think, because you’re putting your life in the hands of the pilot,” Wright says. “You really are a passenger.”
What’s it like at such depths?
At the Titanic ’s depth, the ocean is pitch-black and relatively poor in nutrients, so there’s not a whole lot of life or much else to see in most regions, Jaffe says.
The biggest hazard in the deep oceans is the enormous weight of water pushing down on you . Jaffe says that, at the Titanic ’s depth, the ocean’s pressure is difficult to comprehend, but he suggests imagining that something massive, like the Statue of Liberty, pressing down on something tiny, like a penny.
“It’s unthinkable,” Jaffe says. “The only reason organisms can survive at that depth is because they’re more or less the same density as the water around them, so they don’t get deformed like us air-breathing creatures.”
What do you need to make a dive like this safely?
Vehicle design is crucial. Deep-sea submersibles are often spherical, or at least their inner chamber is, because the shape helps evenly distribute pressure. Submersibles have traditionally been made of titanium, a particularly strong material, Jaffe says. The worst thing that can happen is for that hull to fail, Wright says. “At those intense pressures, your life ends in a second,” she says. “Everything implodes and you just die instantly.”
Humans on a dive also need oxygen—and the ability to use it efficiently. For instance, Wright says, passengers must be able to stay calm in stressful situations because panicking increases respiration. The vehicle began its expedition on Sunday morning with enough oxygen for five people for 96 hours, but there was no way to monitor at a distance how much oxygen remained. Before the fate of the submersible was known, it was thought that if the passengers could breathe slow and steady, they might have been able to extend the timeline slightly, according to the New York Times. At the time, it was also thoguht that the vehicle’s battery could have also been a factor, according to USA Today , because its power controlled the submersible’s temperature in water that could be only a little above freezing.
The easiest way to control such a the vehicle’s descent and its return to the surface, Jaffe says, is to manipulate its density—for example, with a bladder that can expand and contract. “It’s not hard to get stuff down,” Jaffe says. “Getting the stuff back is the problem.”
Wright says that the communications system is crucial, too. On most of her deep-sea dives, she says, the team sends a robot down first. This helps the submersible navigate and keeps it in touch with the main ship. But Wright says she does not know whether OceanGate used this kind of technology.
It remains largely unclear what safety precautions OceanGate had taken in this situation. Although universities and military organizations operating deep-sea submersibles likely have strict safety and testing protocols, Jaffe says there’s no international regulation of this type of excursion.
How are deep-sea exploration technologies developing?
Deep-sea submersibles are still cutting-edge technology themselves, Wright says, noting that the vehicle she rode was one of only two submersibles in the world that can safely reach Challenger Deep.
“One of the biggest technological advances is this ability to go anywhere in the ocean,” Wright says. “The real advancements are in these vehicles and instruments that can withstand the hydrostatic pressure—it’s the destructiveness of the pressure in the ocean that is a major impediment.”
Within a submersible, battery advances are particularly important. Researchers are also developing better deep-sea lighting systems and mapping technology to support expeditions, she says.
Where could the Titan be, and how are people looking for it?
Editor’s Note: This information dates to when the search was being conducted.
Jaffe says he sees three potential scenarios for the missing submersible. The best-case scenario is that it was able to shed weight and rise to the surface of the water. The vehicle would still be difficult to find, given local weather conditions—on Wednesday, waves were expected to reach nine feet amid low clouds and fog, according to the New York Times —but airplanes flying over might be able to spot it.
The other scenarios are grimmer, Jaffe says. “The best thing would be if they’re on the surface,” he adds. “I think rescue from the seafloor or mid-water is going to be extremely difficult, even if we knew where they were.”
If the Titan is indeed stranded in “mid-water,” or around the middle third of the water column, that would require ships to survey the area using sonar, Jaffe says. Sonar would easily detect anything floating in the water column, he notes, but ships equipped with this technology would move slowly, and they would need to survey a large area of water.
The Titan could also be stuck on the bottom of the ocean. “If they’re sitting on the seafloor, that’s probably the worst news,” Jaffe says. To begin with, there are few vehicles that can reach the Titanic ’s depths. Even if the search-and-rescue teams have one, the lost submersible would be difficult to locate—after all, it took several missions to find the much larger Titanic itself in 1985. And the successful expedition needed a week of searching to locate the shipwreck.
If the submersible is on the seafloor, it might blend in with the Titanic ’s own debris field, Jaffe notes. “If it’s sitting on the bottom, I don’t know any quick way to find it in a clutter field like the Titanic, ” he says.
What is it about the Titanic that inspires such tourism?
The Titanic and its wreckage have long fascinated people, Jaffe says, thanks to its glamour—and the fact that some 1,500 people died when it sank. “It was a monumental ship that we thought was indestructible, and what we found out was that we are still vulnerable to forces on this planet that are beyond our control,” Jaffe says.
That symbolism has drawn people to the site since its discovery, and both Jaffe and Wright say they’re glad to see adventurers take to the deep seas. Wright compares the Titanic shipwreck to a national park on land—places where both science and tourism thrive. “The hope with the Titanic wreck was that it would be more of a sacred site that people would visit, that would be protected from treasure hunters,” Wright says.
“But there’s also great dangers here,” she adds. “It’s like the people who try to climb El Capitan in Yosemite: That’s something that you can do; it’s a wonderful thing to do. But it’s an incredibly dangerous thing to do.”
Editor’s Note (6/22/23): This story was edited after posting to include updated information about the search for the Titan and its implosion. Previosuly, the text was amended on June 21 to include updates on the crew onboard the sub, local weather conditions and concerns about the supplies of oxygen and battery power.
Missing Titanic tourist sub: Everything we know so far, from who's on board to when it disappeared
- The Titan submersible went missing during an expedition to the RMS Titanic shipwreck Sunday.
- Five passengers were on board the vessel when it went missing in the Atlantic Ocean.
- The Coast Guard announced Thursday that the vessel likely imploded after a ROV found a debris field.
A submersible carrying tourists to the wreck of the RMS Titanic went missing shortly after it began its journey to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday.
On Thursday, the Coast Guard announced that the vessel likely imploded and that an underwater robot found pieces of debris consistent with the sub on the ocean floor.
The submersible was part of an eight-day expedition operated by OceanGate Expeditions, which organizes trips to the remains of the Titanic — two main pieces that sit about 2 ½ miles down into the ocean and about 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Insider previously reported . Tourists pay $250,000 for the trip.
Customers who board the small submersible experience the "massive scale of the wreck," OceanGate's website says.
According to OceanGate, there were successful missions to the wreck in 2021 and 2022, before the sub lost communication with its mothership Sunday.
When did the Titan sub go missing?
OceanGate's Titan submersible left for its mission to the Titanic wreck on Sunday morning. The vessel was carrying five passengers — one pilot and four tourists.
But it lost communications with its mothership, the Canadian research ship the Polar Prince, less than two hours into the journey, the US Coast Guard said Monday afternoon.
The Coast Guard said it began searching for the 21-foot sub Monday afternoon.
Coast Guard officials said the oxygen on board the submersible was expected to run out between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Thursday, if the submersible hadn't imploded before that.
Fresh hope was raised for finding the crew alive when the US Coast Guard said early Wednesday that a Canadian P-3 aircraft helping the search had detected "underwater noises," with remotely operated vehicles sent to investigate.
It came after Rolling Stone reported that a Canadian aircraft detected "banging" in 30-minute intervals from the area where the submersible went missing.
Officials said they heard more banging on Wednesday, though officials and experts said it isn't clear what the noises were, and the source of the noises was never verified.
The US Coast Guard, which worked with the US Navy, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Canadian military to search for the vessel, announced on Thursday afternoon that a debris field found by a remote-operated vehicle was from the missing Titan sub and that it was "consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber ."
The agency indicated that the vessel likely imploded at some point before the search and rescue efforts began .
OceanGate released a further statement saying it believes five passengers onboard the Titan are presumed dead .
Later on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal first reported that the US Navy heard what it believed was an implosion days before, just hours after the Titan began its mission.
A top-secret military acoustic detection system that the Navy employs to spot enemy submarines picked up the sound of the implosion shortly after the sub lost communications with its mother ship, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Navy had started listening for the missing sub almost as soon as it went missing.
When was the missing Titanic sub found?
Debris from the submersible was found on Thursday, 1,600 feet away from the famous Titanic shipwreck its five passengers hoped to explore, the Coast Guard said.
Officials said they notified passengers' families after an ROV found the tail comb of the Titan approximately 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic. Additional debris that is consistent with a loss of cabin pressure that would have triggered the vessel to implode was also discovered by the ROV.
US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger said investigators discovered five major pieces of debris confirmed to be the remains of the Titan, including a nose comb outside of the pressure hull, the front of the pressure hull, and the totality of the pressure vessel.
The Coast Guard added that ROVs will stay on the scene to continue to investigate what happened and to gather more information about the tragic event.
Who was on the missing Titanic sub?
The Titan could fit five people and was at capacity when it set out on its mission.
The BBC and Reuters identified the five passengers on board as Hamish Harding, Paul Henry Nargeolet, Shahzada Dawood, Suleman Dawood, and Stockton Rush, the founder and CEO of OceanGate.
According to OceanGate, Rush performed a 4,000-meter validation dive on the Titan in December 2018.
Harding, a 58-year-old British billionaire, had a taste for adventure and once went on a Blue Origin flight to space. He's a known explorer who holds at least four Guinness World Records honors for achievements including the longest time spent navigating the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, and the fastest flight going all the way around the globe, crossing both poles, Insider previously reported . He's also been to the South Pole twice.
Harding announced his trip on the Titan in a Sunday Instagram post before the sub started its expedition.
Nargeolet, a 77-year-old former French navy captain and veteran deep-sea diver known as "Mr. Titanic," was no stranger to the wreck of the RMS Titanic. Before Sunday's trip, Nargeolet had been there at least 35 times.
He was also one of the passengers on the first human expedition to the wreckage in 1987, just two years after it was discovered, The Telegraph reported .
Mathieu Johann, Nargeolet's spokesperson, told the BBC that he hoped the people on board the missing submersible were reassured by Nargeolet's poise and military background as search-and-rescue teams worked to locate the vessel, Insider previously reported .
Shahzada Dawood, a 48-year-old British-Pakistani businessman, was also aboard the Titan with his son, Suleman Dawood, 19.
In a statement shared with the BBC , their family said Shahzada Dawood was interested in "exploring different natural habitats." He served as the vice chair of Pakistan's Engro Corp. and lived in London with his son, wife, and other child, Alina.
Suleman Dawood was "a big fan of science fiction literature and learning new things" and was a university student, his family said.
Where did the Titanic sink?
According to OceanGate, the wreck of the Titanic is approximately 380 nautical miles south of Newfoundland, or about 437 miles.
The wreck is in two main pieces 3,800 meters, or 12,800 feet, deep in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Titan is the only sub in OceanGate's fleet that can go as deep as the Titanic wreck. It is unclear how deep the sub was or how close it was to the Titanic wreck when it went missing Sunday.
The deepest sub rescue in history was of a small submersible called the Pisces III, which was carrying the former Navy pilots Roger Mallinson and Roger Chapman in September 1973, according to the BBC .
A hatch broke off a rear compartment, plunging the sub to a depth of 1,575 feet. It took two days for the vessel to be brought to the surface, leaving the men with only 12 minutes of oxygen left at the time of their rescue.
The Titanic wreck is much deeper than the deepest point the Pisces III reached.
Watch: Sub taking tourists to see the Titanic goes missing
- Main content
Titanic submersible live updates: 'Catastrophic implosion' killed five aboard, possibly Sunday
Editor's note: This page reflects the news on the missing submarine from Thursday, June 22. For the latest updates on the missing submersible and the recovery efforts, read our live updates page for Friday, June 23 .
The five people aboard the submersible that had been missing for days were killed when the small vessel carrying them to the Titanic wreckage site had a "catastrophic implosion,'' the Coast Guard said Thursday afternoon.
Members of a massive international search effort found a debris field in the general area of the Titanic earlier in the day, and it was confirmed to contain parts of the Titan sub.
"The debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel," Rear Adm. John Mauger, commander of the First Coast Guard District, said in a news conference.
The debris was found about 1,600 feet from the Titanic's bow on the sea floor, Mauger said, adding that it was too early to tell when the Titan imploded.
However, an "anomaly'' the U.S. Navy detected Sunday was likely the small watercraft's fatal blast, according to a senior military official. The irregularity was picked up when the Navy went back and analyzed its acoustic data after the submersible was reported missing that day.
That anomaly was “consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the Titan submersible was operating when communications were lost,” a senior Navy official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Navy shared the information with the Coast Guard, but the data was not considered definitive.
Paul Hankins, the U.S. Navy director of salvage operations and ocean engineering, said the debris found Thursday indicated a "catastrophic event." He and Mauger said it included a tail cone, the end bell of the pressure hull and the aft end bell, which according to Hankins, "basically comprise the totality of that pressure vessel."
The 22-foot vehicle was on a dive to the Titanic site when it lost contact with its support ship Sunday morning.
OceanGate, the company that operated the Titan – and whose CEO, Stockton Rush, piloted the watercraft – issued a statement saying the travelers "have sadly been lost.''
"We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew,'' the statement said.
The other four people believed to have perished were Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, British adventurer Hamish Harding and French deep-sea explorer and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.
“Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives on the Titan,” the White House said in a statement. “They have been through a harrowing ordeal over the past few days, and we are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Debris field discovered early Thursday
Search and rescue crews remotely operating an underwater vehicle had discovered debris near the Titanic earlier Thursday, the day the submersible was expected to run out of oxygen .
The debris was found by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) associated with the Canadian vessel Horizon Arctic that reached the sea floor and began searching for the submersible early Thursday, according to the Coast Guard, which said ROVs will be used in a continued investigation of what happened.
The complex search and rescue mission attracted international attention and involved personnel from the U.S., Canada, France and the United Kingdom . Another ROV, associated with the French vessel L'Atalante, also deployed Thursday, the Coast Guard said.
The accelerating search efforts came as an updated prediction by the Coast Guard said the Titan submersible was likely to run out of oxygen roughly around 7 a.m. EDT Thursday. It initially had 96 hours of oxygen for a crew of five. Experts have noted that the estimates are imprecise. In the end, running out of oxygen was not the biggest problem.
Inside the underwater vessel: Reporter who rode Titanic submersible tells USA TODAY about 'less sophisticated' parts
Wife of OceanGate CEO descended from Titanic victims
The wife of OceanGate's CEO is descended from victims of the Titanic wreck of 1912, genealogical records suggest.
Wendy Rush, the wife of Stockton Rush, is the great-great-granddaughter of Isidor and Ida Straus , The New York Times first reported . USA TODAY confirmed the tie through genealogical records online.
The couple was last seen together on the deck of the Titanic holding hands as it sank, according to the U.K. government's National Archives. Rush's great-grandmother was their daughter Minnie, who married Richard Weil, said Joan Adler, executive director of the Straus Historical Society, a nonprofit that preserves information relating to the Straus Family.
Rush works as OceanGate's director of communications and has participated in three past OceanGate journeys to the Titanic site, according to her LinkedIn page .
Pakistani teen was student in Scotland
Suleman Dawood, the Pakistani 19-year-old aboard the vessel, was a student at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, the university confirmed Thursday. He just completed his first year in the business school there.
"We are deeply concerned about Suleman, his father and the others involved in this incident. Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones and we continue to hope for a positive outcome," the university said.
Deep ocean salvage system arrives for search
Rescue crews on Thursday had faced wind gusts up to 19 mph and ocean swells up to 5 feet, with an air temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Coast Guard.
The U.S. Navy said Wednesday afternoon that a special deep-water salvage system capable of hoisting up to 60,000 pounds had reached St. John’s, Canada, and could be used to lift the Titan to the surface, though it may not be ready for another 24 hours. The Titan weighs 23,000 pounds, according to the OceanGate website.
Submersible previously had battery issues
At least 46 people successfully traveled on OceanGate’s submersible to the Titanic wreck site in 2021 and 2022, according to letters the company filed with a U.S. District Court in Virginia.
"On the first dive to the Titanic, the submersible encountered a battery issue and had to be manually attached to its lifting platform," one filing says. "In the high sea state, the submersible sustained modest damage to its external components and OceanGate decided to cancel the second mission for repairs and operational enhancements."
Arthur Loibl, a retired businessman from Germany, took a dive to the site two years ago. "Imagine a metal tube a few meters long with a sheet of metal for a floor. You can't stand. You can't kneel. Everyone is sitting close to or on top of each other," Loibl told the Associated Press. "You can't be claustrophobic."
During the 2.5-hour descent and ascent, the lights were turned off to conserve energy, he said, with the only illumination coming from a fluorescent glow stick. The dive was repeatedly delayed to fix a problem with the battery and the balancing weights. In total, the voyage took 10.5 hours, he said.
Underwater noises heard for two days
Aircraft detected underwater noises in the search area on Tuesday and Wednesday, prompting officials to redirect rescue efforts, said Capt. Jamie Frederick, the First Coast Guard District response coordinator, in a news conference Wednesday. Navy acoustic analysts were studying the sounds, he said.
"We don't know what they are," Frederick said. "The good news is, we’re searching in the area where the noises were detected." The search net covers a surface area roughly two times the size of Connecticut and 2.5 miles deep, he said.
At the press conference Wednesday, Carl Hartsfield, director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said the sounds have been described as "banging noises." He cautioned against jumping to conclusions and said sounds that aren’t man-made may sound man-made to the untrained ear.
Missing Titanic submersible: Maps, graphics show last location, depth and design
Who is on the passenger list of the submersible?
These are the passengers who were on the submersible :
◾ Stockton Rush, 61, CEO of OceanGate, who co-founded the company in 2009.
◾ Paul-Henry Nargeolet, 73, a French maritime explorer and director of the Underwater Research Program at Premier Exhibitions, RMS Titanic Inc., the only company with exclusive rights to recover the artifacts from the Titanic wreck.
◾ Hamish Harding, 58, a British explorer, private jet dealer and chairman of Action Aviation, a global sales company in business aviation.
◾ Shahzada Dawood, 48, a member of one of Pakistan’s most prominent families.
◾ Suleman Dawood, 19, son of Shahzada Dawood.
– Isabelle Butera, USA TODAY
Who pays the cost of Coast Guard rescues?
The cost of the search and rescue mission is likely in the millions of dollars – and will fall to taxpayers, said Chris Boyer, the executive director of the National Association for Search and Rescue, a nonprofit education, training and advocacy group.
He said the Coast Guard doesn’t charge people for search and rescue. "That’s their job," he said, noting fear of costs could deter people from seeking lifesaving help.
While some adventure expeditions require patrons to take out insurance policies, few would come close to covering the likely costs of the rescue mission, he said. High-risk adventures have long fueled complex debates about risk and rescue, he said.
"I think it's going to become a larger issue for us. Because it's not just under the water. We now have private spaceships flying private astronauts into space," he said. "What happens when that private spaceship can't come back home?"
– Chris Kenning, USA TODAY
What does it look like inside the missing submersible?
The Titan submersible was about 8 feet high, 9 feet wide and 22 feet long, according to the OceanGate website. It was designed to reach about 13,000 feet deep and travel at 3 knots, the company says. The vessel had a five-inch-thick carbon fiber and titanium hull and four 10-horsepower electric thrusters, according to court filings.
Several exterior cameras provided a live view of the outside, and passengers could access the camera views on a large digital display or on a hand-held tablet, according to court filings. Images posted to the website show people seated on the floor in the small, open space with their legs crossed.
Science writer and CBS correspondent David Pogue, who boarded the submersible for a report that aired in November , told USA TODAY he was concerned about the vessel's safety.
"There were parts of it that seemed to me to be less sophisticated than I was guessing. You drive it with a PlayStation video controller … some of the ballasts are old, rusty construction pipes," Pogue said. "There were certain things that looked like cut corners."
Contributing: Kayla Jimenez, Dinah Pulver and Anthony Robledo, USA TODAY ; The Associated Press
Missing Titanic submersible live updates: Texts show OceanGate CEO dismissed concerns
Five people, including the company CEO, were aboard the sub when it imploded.
All passengers are believed to be lost after a desperate dayslong search for a submersible carrying five people that vanished while on a tour of the Titanic wreckage off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
The 21-foot deep-sea vessel, operated by OceanGate Expeditions , lost contact about an hour and 45 minutes after submerging on Sunday morning with a 96-hour oxygen supply. That amount of breathable air was forecast to run out on Thursday morning, according to the United States Coast Guard, which was coordinating the multinational search and rescue efforts.
Rcmp to investigate the deaths aboard titan sub, us taxpayer cost for search and rescue may be $1.5 million, expert says, oceangate ceo claimed sub was safer than scuba diving, texts show.
- OceanGate co-founder defends development of submersible
- Sub's carbon-fiber composite hull was the 'critical failure,' James Cameron says
- Probe seeks answers on why Titanic sub imploded
- Navy likely detected sound of the implosion on Sunday: Official
- All lives believed to be lost: OceanGate
Officials with Canada's Transportation Safety Board said at a press conference Saturday that they have begun speaking with people on board the Polar Prince, which launched the ill-fated Titan submersible.
The Polar Prince returned to its port, St. John's, Newfoundland, on Saturday morning.
"I would say that we've received full cooperation," TSB Director of Marine Investigations Clifford Harvey said. "It's been a really good interaction thus far and is really getting full cooperation with all the individuals involved."
In addition, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said they are "examining the circumstances" of the deaths on board Titan, and will launch a full investigation if "the circumstances indicate criminal, federal or provincial laws may possibly have been broken."
-ABC News' Matt J. Foster
A defense budget expert estimates once the U.S. military participation concludes, the cost for the search and rescue mission of the five passengers on board the Titan submersible will cost the U.S. around $1.5 million.
Mark Cancian, a senior advisor with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, came up with the estimate based on aircraft sorties, cross referencing the U.S. Department of Defense cost numbers, Coast Guard Cutter costs and flying hour costs. He said some costs have already been set aside in various budgets, with resources simply diverted to the site.
He emphasized that these are strictly well-informed guesses.
A spokesperson for the Coast Guard's District 1 in Boston would not give an estimate of costs so far, saying, "We cannot attribute a monetary value to Search and Rescue cases, as the Coast Guard does not associate cost with saving a life."
-ABC News' Jaclyn C. Lee
US Coast Guard to lead sub investigation
The U.S. Coast Guard will be the organization leading the investigation into the OceanGate sub incident.
The NTSB announced the news on Friday via Twitter, noting it will "contribute to their efforts."
A Las Vegas father and son told ABC News OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush pressured them for months into taking two seats on the now failed mission to the Titanic, making bold claims about the vessel's safety.
Financier Jay Bloom shared text messages between himself and Rush where Rush dismissed concerns from Bloom and his son Sean about taking the trip on the Titan submersible.
"While there's obviously a risk it's way safer than flying in a helicopter or even scuba diving," Rush texted.
"He sort of had this predisposition that it was safe," Bloom told ABC News. "And anybody who disagreed with him, he felt it was just a differing opinion."
Bloom added that Rush flew out to Las Vegas in a homebuilt plane to convince him to attend the voyage aboard the submersible.
"He flew it all the way to Vegas. And I was like, 'This guy is definitely down to take risk,'" Bloom said.
-ABC News' Sam Sweeney
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