The U.S. Coast Guard and many other rescue teams are in a race against the clock as they frantically search for a missing submersiblethat set off to explore the wreckage of the Titanic on Sunday.
Communication with the vessel was lost about an hour and 45 minutes into the expedition, as the submersible was just over the Titanic’s wreckage, and it’s feared that the vehicle somehow got stuck in the wreckage itself.
There are 5 people onboard the vessel owned by OceanGate Expeditions, who says that there’s enough oxygen in the submersible to last for about 96 hours, or until sometime on Thursday.
One of the passengers has been identified by his family as as British explorer Hamish Harding, who served as mission director and crew pilot for a flight back in 2019 that set the current world speed record for the fastest circumnavigation of Earth by aircraft over both geographic poles.
Along with Harding, another passenger has been identified as Paul-Henry Nargeolet, a French submersible pilot and Director of Underwater Research Program at Premier Exhibitions, RMS Titanic, Inc.
OceanGate’s submarine, which is named The Titan, is the world’s only five-person vessel that can reach the wreckage of the Titanic. Since 2021, the company has been taking various individuals, including tourists who pay up to $250,000 each for a chance to see the Titanic, to the site the of world famous shipwreck, allowing for scientific research of the 883-foot ship.
The remains of the ship sit 2.4 miles below the surface of the ocean, which makes it difficult to search for the missing vessel. The wreck site is located around 900 nautical miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
The underwater touring company is now working with a number of different government agencies hoping to track down the submarine and its inhabitants.
OceanGate Expeditions released a statement today regarding the situation:
“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.”
But as the situation becomes more critical by the minute, more has been uncovered about the missing submersible – and it has many wondering why anybody would get in it to begin with.
In a 2022 report by the CBC, OceanGate founder Stockton Rush (who is also aboard the missing vessel) gave a tour of the Titan, revealing the bare-bones interior that holds five people in a space about the size of a minivan.
The submersible is also controlled by – get this – an Xbox controller (well actually a Logitech video game controller), which Rush shows off to the CBC:
“We’ve taken a completely new approach to the sub design, and it’s all run with this game controller and these touch screens.
So if you want to go forward you press forward, if you want to go back, you go back, turn left, turn right, go down, go up. And it’s Bluetooth so I can hand it to anybody, and it’s meant for a 16-year old to throw it around.
Super durable, and we keep a couple of spares onboard just in case.”
A CBS report from 2021 called the submersible “improvised” as Rush showed off the lights from Camping World and the “off-the-shelf-components” that make up the sub’s video system.
Y’all please watch this. It’s a CBS story that aired a while back about that submarine that is now missing. The creators of that missing submarine are DEEPLY unserious. pic.twitter.com/B6JriITyZj
Excuse me, what? If I’m going 12,000 feet down into the ocean (which, to be clear, I’m absolutely not), I’d hope that the technology is a little more sophisticated than a Bluetooth Xbox controller and some TVs from Best Buy.
As the whole world seemingly watches and waits for news on the fate of the crew, it’s easy to look back at reports like this and question how the sub was ever allowed to operate in the first place. And the answer is, well, there’s nobody regulating it.
Guests on its voyages sign a waiver acknowledging that the Titan is an experimental vessel, one that hasn’t been certified or approved by any regulatory body. And to be fair, the submersible has made many successful voyages before, gathering valuable information and providing wealthy tourists the opportunity to visit a place few will ever see in person.
But still, after seeing these news reports, I think I’ll just watch the James Cameron movie if I want a closer look at the Titanic.