What we do and don’t know about the missing “Titan” submersible


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As of: 06/20/2023 7:22 p.m

The submersible Titan went missing with five people on board. Rescue workers use sonar buoys and planes to search the remote Atlantic ocean region. What is known so far and what is not?

What is it about?

The search is on for the “Titan” submersible with five people on board, which has been missing since Sunday. The vessel is operated by Oceangate Expeditions, which offers wealthy adventure vacationers and “Titanic” researchers a high-priced dive trip to the world-famous wreck. According to the company, the “Titan” is one of very few boats that can transport people several thousand meters deep.

Who is on board?

British businessman and adventurer Hamish Harding is confirmed to be on board, as is British-Pakistani business consultant Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son. French “Titanic” expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet is also on the boat, a spokesman for the BBC family confirmed.

The identity of the fifth person on board has not yet been publicly confirmed. However, the US Coast Guard announced that a “pilot” and four guests had dived – so the fifth person is likely to be the boat’s helmsman.

What kind of boat is the “Titan”?

The 6.70 meter long and 10.4 ton “Titan” offers space for five people and is a very simple vehicle. The walls are heated because the water gets very cold at great depths. The arched window at the front is intended to provide a view of the “Titanic”. Powerful headlights on the outside break through the darkness at great depth.

In fact, it is a submersible in the narrow sense, not a submarine, because it does not go in and out of ports under its own power. Rather, it is brought by its large escort ship “Polar Prince” to the place where the “Titanic” lies and then submerges for a few hours.

To withstand the enormous water pressure at depth, the heavy boat has a 5 inch thick carbon fiber hull and is reinforced with 2 domed titanium end caps. In an emergency, the oxygen on the “Titan” is sufficient for 96 hours, i.e. until about Thursday. According to experts and previous passengers, there is no escape capsule.

The “Titan” has a toilet in the front area that can be separated by a curtain. According to BBC information, the music is then turned up to drown out any noise. The company recommends “restricting diet before and during the dive.”

How safe is the dive boat?

Two years ago, Arthur Loibl, a member of the German Titanic Association, went with the “Titan”. In an interview with Hessian radio he reports technical problems. A dive was aborted at 1600 meters for technical reasons. In addition, there were problems charging the battery, which delayed a dive. “Battery and electrics were actually an issue right from the start,” says Loibl.

How and where do you search?

The rescuers search for the boat with several planes, ships and sonar buoys. The buoys should be able to detect sounds down to a depth of 4000 meters. The operation is managed by the US Coast Guard in Boston, which is coordinating with Canadian rescue workers. First of all, the water surface was searched with aircraft, but since Tuesday the focus has been on the search under water, said Commander John Mauger.

So far there is no trace of the boat. “Today, those search efforts have yielded no results,” a US Coast Guard spokesman said in Boston on Tuesday evening.

France sent a special ship including a diving robot to the region. The research ship “Atalante” from the marine research institute Ifremer will arrive on Wednesday evening, said France’s Secretary of State for the Sea, Hervé Berville. The ship is equipped with a diving robot suitable for great depths. Experts to operate the robot left Toulon in southern France to conduct the search for the missing submersible on site.

The wreck of the “Titanic” lies about 684 kilometers south of the Canadian island of Newfoundland at a depth of 3800 meters.

What we don’t know

It is not known whether the boat has already been located. Even if it did, a rescue mission would be very complicated, oceanologist Simon Boxall of the University of Southampton told the British PA news agency. There are very few boats that could operate at that depth and carry out such a mission.

The cause of the accident is still unknown. For example, it is unclear whether the boat may be stuck on the wreck of the “Titanic” or whether it has drifted off. There is a large debris field around the wreck at depth. According to experts, it could be a challenge for helpers to identify the boat there.

With information from dpa and AP

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