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Titan submersible found shattered near Titanic wreckage

Submersible found in pieces, all five crew members confirmed dead

Titan submersible found shattered near Titanic wreckage
[Source photo: OceanGate; Altered by: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Titan, the submersible vessel that went missing en route to the Titanic wreckage on Sunday, was found shattered in pieces on the ocean floor on Thursday. 

The US Coast Guard confirmed that all five people aboard the vessel died.

Rear Admiral John Mauger of the US Coast Guard said that determining the exact moment of the submersible’s catastrophic end is currently challenging. 

Although sonar buoys were deployed for over three days, no sounds indicative of an implosion were detected. 

The US Navy, however, analyzed acoustic data and noted an anomaly consistent with an implosion or explosion in the submersible’s vicinity at the time communication was lost.

This data, according to The Wall Street Journal, was picked up by a highly classified system designed to detect enemy submarines.

The Cyclops-class manned submersible owned by OceanGate Expeditions embarked on its fateful journey on Sunday morning. 

Just one hour and forty-five minutes into the dive, the vessel lost communication with its command ship, the Polar Prince. 

The US Coast Guard promptly initiated search and rescue operations following a distress call from the Polar Prince.

Global rescue team

The search operation involved an international coalition of teams from the United States, Canada, France, and Britain, tirelessly scanning thousands of square miles of open sea. 

A robotic diving vehicle from a Canadian ship eventually discovered the debris field of the Titan near the Titanic wreck on the seabed.

Mauger confirmed that the debris field was indicative of a “catastrophic implosion” and included five major fragments of the Titan, such as the tail cone and sections of the pressure hull. However, no human remains have been reported.  “We will begin to demobilize personnel and vessels from the scene over the course of the next 24 hours,” Mauger said.

OceanGate said in a statement before the Coast Guard’s announcement saying, “These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans. Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time.”

The passengers aboard the Titan included Stockton Rush, the 61-year-old CEO of OceanGate, who was piloting the vessel; British billionaire Hamish Harding, 58; Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son Suleman; and 77-year-old French explorer and former French Navy commander Paul-Henri Nargeolet. 

Safety protocols

Meanwhile, questions surrounding safety protocols have intensified. OceanGate has been accused of declining a voluntary safety inspection before the mission, highlighting the risks and emphasizing the necessity for strict safety measures in deep-sea operations.

The Titan, made of carbon fiber and titanium, was designed to carry five people to depths of 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) for site surveys and inspections. It had a 96-hour life support system for its crew and a real-time hull health monitoring system. OceanGate, through its website, claims to have completed over 14 expeditions and over 200 dives in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico.

James Cameron, the acclaimed filmmaker behind the 1997 film “Titanic”, said he suspected a disaster as soon as he heard that the submersible had lost both its navigation and communication at the same time.

The director told BBC that had contacted his connections in the deep submersible community when he heard the news of the submersible’s disappearance. He said he had gathered that the submersible was descending and was at 3,500 meters, making its way to a depth of 3,800 meters when both communication and navigation were lost. 

He said he immediately inferred that losing both systems at the same time could only be indicative of a “highly energetic disaster”, and an implosion was the first possibility that crossed his mind.

As the investigation continues, the prospects of recovering the victims’ remains remain uncertain due to the extreme conditions at those depths.

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