A photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions in 2021 showing the company’s Titan submersible. It is now missing.Credit...OceanGate Expeditions, via Associated Press
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By Jesus Jiménez,Jenny Gross,Emma Bubola and Alan Yuhas
The submersible vessel carrying five people slipped into the dark waters of the North Atlantic, heading to what remained of the Titanic, 12,500 feet under the sea. The expedition, like many before it, was a testament to the enduring fascination with the storied ship that struck an iceberg and sank off Newfoundland more than a century ago.
But one hour and 45 minutes into the dive on Sunday morning, the craft went missing, setting off a search by rescue crews from two countries and adding another layer of mystery and intrigue to the Titanic wreck.
Among those on board was Hamish Harding, a British aviation tycoon who took part in Blue Origin’s fifth human spaceflight last year and holds several Guinness World Records, including for the longest time spent traversing the deepest part of the ocean on a single dive.
In social media posts, Mr. Harding, 58, had written excitedly about the upcoming trip. “I am proud to finally announce that I joined @oceangateexped for their RMS TITANIC mission as a mission specialist on the sub going down to the Titanic,” he said on Instagram, adding, “More expedition updates to follow, IF the weather holds.”
On Monday, officials had no explanation for why the craft, called the Titan, lost contact with its Canadian expedition ship on the surface, MV Polar Prince, about 400 miles south of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
But a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard, Rear Admiral John Mauger, said at a news conference that the people on the vessel, which was designed to survive an emergency for 96 hours, would theoretically have at least 70 to 96 hours of oxygen before the situation became dire.
“We’re using that time making the best use of every moment of that time,” he said.
The Coast Guard was coordinating with the Canadian authorities and commercial vessels to help search an area approximately 900 miles east of Cape Cod, at a depth of roughly 13,000 feet, he said. Sonar buoys were deployed into the water, and the expedition ship was using sonar to try to locate the submersible. Aircraft from the United States and Canada, along with surface vessels, were scanning the waves in case the submersible had surfaced and lost communications, he said.
“We are doing everything we can do,” Admiral Mauger said at the news conference, adding that it was “a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area, but we are deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board.”
Officials have not released the names of those on the craft, but Mr. Harding, chairman of a Dubai-based sales and air operations company, Action Aviation, was confirmed as being on board the missing submersible by Mark Butler, managing director of the company.
Mr. Harding said in another post that Paul Henry Nargeolet, a French expert on the Titanic, had been expected to be on the vessel that disappeared.
The 21-foot craft is operated by OceanGate Expeditions, a company that is based in Washington State and offers tours of shipwrecks and underwater canyons for $250,000 a person. OceanGate calls the Titan the only crewed submersible in the world that can take five people as deep as 4,000 meters — or more than 13,100 feet — enabling it to reach almost 50 percent of the world’s oceans. The vessel usually carries a pilot, three paying guests and a “content expert.”
In a statement on Monday, OceanGate said: “Our entire focus is on the crew members in the submersible and their families. 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 Marine Institute at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, which partnered with OceanGate on the trip, said in a statement that it became aware on Monday morning that OceanGate had lost contact with its Titan submersible. “We have no further information on the status of the submersible or personnel,” it said in a statement.
RMS Titanic, a luxury liner and the world’s largest ship when built, struck an iceberg and sank one Sunday in April 1912, on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. For decades afterward, searchers explored the North Atlantic for the ship’s wreck on the ocean floor.
Finally, in 1985, a team took undersea robots to depths of more than 12,000 feet and verified that the broken hulk it had found less than 400 miles from Newfoundland was, indeed, the Titanic of lore.
The deteriorating ruin of the Titanic lies in waters some two and a half miles deep — far deeper than ordinary submarines can venture. At that depth, the water pressure is hundreds of times as high as it is just below the surface.
A submersible traveling down to the Titanic faces soaring, crushing pressure during its long descent. At the ship’s resting place, the weight of the icy ocean pressing down would be equal to a tower of solid lead overhead rising to the height of the Empire State Building.
Typically, searchers and researchers looking in such inky depths rely on advanced robots that use remote-controlled television, photography and sonar-mapping systems that can survive the crushing pressures and pierce the darkness. But such exploratory work is expensive and often frustrating.
For 111 years, the Titanic shipwreck had garnered intense interest among researchers and treasure hunters captivated by its tragic history: the horror of the accident, the inadequacy of the lifeboats, the supposed hubris of the ship’s builders and operators, the enormous wealth of many and the poverty of others on board, and the deadly indifference of the iceberg and the sea.
Tourists began paying for dives by submersible. Salvage crews were hunting for artifacts to bring back up, over the objections of preservationists who said the wreck should be honored as the graveyard of more than 1,500 people. Researchers said the site was littered with beer and soda bottles and the remains of salvage efforts, including weights, chains and cargo nets.
James Cameron, the award-winning director, reinvigorated interest in the ship with his 1997 film, “Titanic.” Mr. Cameron’s cinematic hit imbued the wreck with a new story of romance and tragedy, renewing interest far beyond those with an interest in famous maritime accidents.
By the early 2000s, scientists were warning that visitors were a threat to the wreck, saying that gaping holes had opened up in the decks, walls had crumpled, and that rusticles — icicle-shaped structures of rust — were spreading all over the ship.
Mr. Cameron, who has repeatedly visited the Titanic, was among those calling for care around the site. He took 3-D cameras there for his 2003 documentary, “Ghosts of the Abyss.”
By the time OceanGate Expeditions, a private company founded in 2009, began offering tours to paying customers, researchers said that the Titanic had little scientific value compared with other sites. But cultural interest in the ship remains extraordinarily high, and the disaster continues to command a fascination online, sometimes at the expense of facts.
Last summer, the president of OceanGate, Stockton Rush, told The New York Times that private exploration was needed to continue feeding public fascination with the wreck site.
“No public entity is going to fund going back to the Titanic,” Mr. Rush said. “There are other sites that are newer and probably of greater scientific value.”
OceanGate also shared a one-minute clip of video obtained during one of its trips to the wreck site. Mr. Rush said that the high quality of the footage allowed researchers to get an even closer look at the site without having to go underwater.
He compared the OceanGate trips to space tourism, saying the commercial voyages were the first step to expanding the use of the submersibles for industrial activities, such as inspecting and maintaining underwater oil rigs.
The dives offered by the company last about eight hours, including the estimated 2.5 hours each way it takes to descend and ascend. Scientists and historians provide context on the trip and some conduct research at the site, which has become a reef that is home to many organisms. The team also documents the wreckage with high-definition cameras to monitor its decay and capture it in detail.
In his post on Instagram, Mr. Harding, who boarded the submersible before it lost contact, wrote of the planned dive, “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.”
He also said, “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.”
Amanda Holpuch, William J. Broad and Andrea Kannapell contributed reporting.
Jesus Jiménez is a general assignment reporter. @jesus_jimz
Jenny Gross is a general assignment reporter. Before joining The Times, she covered British politics for The Wall Street Journal. @jggross
Emma Bubola is a reporter based in London. @EmmaBubola
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Head to Google Maps or Google Earth. Type in the following coordinates: 41.7325° N, 49.9469° W. Explore the area where the iceberg was when the Titanic struck.Why do you think it took 73 years to locate the Titanic wreckage? ›
For decades, a number of expeditions sought to find the Titanic without success—a problem compounded by the North Atlantic's unpredictable weather, the enormous depth at which the sunken ship lies, and conflicting accounts of its final moments.
The following year, however, a company called Titanic Ventures co-sponsored a survey and salvage operation of the wreck, and was eventually granted title to artifacts retrieved there, iNews said. In May 1996, Titanic Ventures sold its interests to the salvage firm RMS Titanic Inc.Who was the first person to find the Titanic? ›
Recent News. Robert Ballard, in full Robert Duane Ballard, (born June 30, 1942, Wichita, Kansas, U.S.), American oceanographer and marine geologist whose pioneering use of deep-diving submersibles laid the foundations for deep-sea archaeology. He is best known for discovering the wreck of the Titanic in 1985.Is the iceberg that sank Titanic still there? ›
The average lifespan of an iceberg in the North Atlantic typically is two to three years from calving to melting. This means the iceberg that sank the Titanic "likely broke off from Greenland in 1910 or 1911, and was gone forever by the end of 1912 or sometime in 1913."Can we see Titanic ship in Google Earth? ›
You can find the co-ordinates and zoom into the area, but the little 3D model of the titanic is no longer there. The 3D model is still there in Google Earth Pro. The bow is at 41° 43.626' N 49° 56.904' W. The stern is at 41° 44.064' N 49° 56.895' W.Why you won t find bodies on the Titanic? ›
He explained that there are no bodies of the people who died during that tragedy because it's impossible for dead bodies to remain intact at that great a depth. He said: “You won't find bodies in the Titanic, you won't find skeletons. The bones actually dissolve to solution very rapidly at that depth.Why can't we pick up the Titanic? ›
There are fears that during retrieval, the Titanic wreck would disintegrate into pieces, making it impossible to have something concrete by the time the remains reach the sea surface. There are documented reports that metal-eating bacteria has already consumed most of Titanic's wreckage.Why wasn t it easy to find the Titanic right after it sank? ›
The sunken liner was about 400 miles east of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic, some 13,000 feet below the surface. Efforts to locate and salvage the Titanic began almost immediately after it sank. But technical limitations—as well as the sheer vastness of the North Atlantic search area—made it extremely difficult.Are there skeletons in the Titanic? ›
But, crucially, plenty is still missing: human remains. Some 1,160 people went down with the Titanic. but no bodies have ever been found. There are multiple theories as to why, although experts have been unable to completely solve the mystery once and for all.
U.S. law forbids the sale of relics from the Titanic, and allows only for salvaged items to be put on public display, not on the black market. Yet, experts say that dozens of expeditions to the Titanic have plundered the ship, and taken their toll on the liner.Who bought a ticket on the Titanic but didn't go? ›
As the Titanic was the height of luxury in 1912, some celebrities had tickets for its maiden voyage. But not all of them ended up boarding the ship. J. Pierpont Morgan and Milton Hershey were among those who missed the disaster.Who picked up the bodies from the Titanic? ›
Titanic - Halifax Connection
It was the base for ships searching and recovering bodies of Titanic victims. Three ships were dispatched from Halifax, Mackay-Bennett, Minia and Montmagny (along with Algerine from Saint John's, Newfoundland) found almost all of the Titanic victims.
In July 1986, nine months after their discovery of the wreck of RMS Titanic, the Deep Submergence Laboratory (DSL) team… The wreck of Titanic was located in 1985 by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's new imaging vehicle Argo on its…Was someone born on the Titanic? ›
William Moss - Daughter Wilhelmina Frances born late 1912. William McQuilan - daughter Gertrude Willelmina born 20 November 1912. Karl Olsen - son Charles Ernest born shortly before or just after the disaster.Where did Titanic sink map coordinates? ›
|Wreck of the Titanic|
|Date||15 April 1912|
|Location||370 nmi (690 km) south-southeast of Newfoundland, North Atlantic Ocean|
|Discovered||1 September 1985|
Simply head to the Google Maps app and type in the following coordinates: 41.7325° N, 49.9469° W and you'll be able to see just how close the Titanic was to its intended destination. The British passenger liner sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 14, 1912, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew.How close was Titanic to New York? ›
How Far Away From America Was The Titanic When It Sank? The Titanic wreck is situated 1084 nautical miles from New York City and 325 nautical miles from the tip of Newfoundland.