This operation is 11,000 feet deeper than the deepest successful undersea rescue so far. Hopefully, no rescuer will need to be rescued during the quest to retrieve some high-end adventure seekers.
***Will update as information comes out.
A desperate rescue operation has been launched in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean for a technologically advanced submersible vessel carrying five people to document the wreckage of the iconic ocean liner R.M.S. Titanic, which sank more than 12,000 feet below the sea in 1912.
The vessel was reported overdue Sunday night about 435 miles (700 kilometres) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland, according to Canada’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Lt. Cmdr. Len Hickey said a Canadian Coast Guard vessel and military aircraft were assisting the search effort, which was being led by the U.S. Coast Guard in Boston.
Rear Adm. John Mauger, a commander for the U.S. Coast Guard, said additional resources would arrive in the coming days.
“It is a remote area — and it is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area,” he said. “But we are deploying all available assets to make sure we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board.”
According to the Coast Guard, the craft submerged Sunday morning, and its support vessel lost contact with it about an hour and 45 minutes later.
The rescue mission is facing enormous challenges. The pressure at the depth of the Titanic wreck is 380 atmospheres. There are few organizations with equipment that can even attempt such a deep-sea rescue.
While the US Coast Guard does not have such equipment, it has deployed sonar buoys in an attempt to locate the submersible, then direct the appropriate resources to the rescue.
The Coast Guard is also working with military and civilian partners to develop a rescue plan if the vessel is located underwater, Mauger said.
“Right now we’re focused on locating the vessel. But at the same time, if we find this vessel in the water then we will have to effect some sort of rescue,” Mauger said. “We’re coordinating, reaching out to different partners within the U.S. Navy, within the Canadian armed forces, and within private industry to understand what underwater rescue capability might be available.”
It is also a race against time. The submersible has only 96 hours of air supply available. An additional challenge is the inability to communicate with the crew.
David Pogue, a CBS reporter who travelled in the Titan submersible last year, told the BBC about the issues that both the submersible crew and the land crew were likely to be experiencing, saying that there was currently “no way” to communicate with the vessel as neither GPS nor radio “work under water”.
“When the support ship is directly over the sub, they can send short text messages back and forth. Clearly those are no longer getting a response,” Mr Pogue said.
He added that because the passengers were sealed inside the vessel by bolts applied from the outside, “There’s no way to escape, even if you rise to the surface by yourself. You cannot get out of the sub without a crew on the outside letting you out.”
The passengers include the OceanGate CEO and a British billionaire. If they are rescued, it would be a historic moment in undersea operations.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said the OceanGate Expeditions vessel carrying five passengers, including British billionaire Hamish Harding, went missing at around 9.13pm Sunday, about 435 miles (700 kilometres) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The sub was taking a crew of five people – including OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, French explorer PH Nargeolet and Harding – to the famous Titanic wreckage as part of its $250,000-a-head tour.
If the crew can be found, this operation would be 11,000ft deeper than the deepest successful undersea rescue in history – when British engineers Roger Mallinson and Roger Chapman survived their submersible Pisces III getting trapped on the seabed at a depth of 1,575ft off Ireland in 1973.
Harding is an avid adventure traveler who has been aboard one of the private Blue Origin launches. He noted the brutal weather conditions in the area just before the crew headed out.
Harding acknowledged the expedition’s treacherous nature, noting abysmal conditions in eastern Canada have significantly complicated exploration of the Titanic wreck. “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,” he wrote.
Harding, 58, is renowned for his lofty travel ambitions, with a resume including a record-setting circumnavigation of the Earth, an Antarctic expedition with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and a seat aboard the fifth human flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket last year.
Harding also worked on a project to launch regular business jet service to the Antarctic, working with a company called White Desert, and also collaborated with the Indian government on a project to reintroduce eight wild cheetahs from Namibia to India, under the auspices of the Explorers Club.
In many ways, underwater exploration presents even more challenges than space exploration. Hopefully, none of the rescuers will need to be rescued during their quest to retrieve these high-end adventure seekers.DONATE
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