The US Coast Guard moved its robotic undersea search operations on Wednesday to the location where sounds, most likely from the missing OceanGate Expeditions submersible, were heard.
According to Reuters, search teams detected underwater sounds as they combed the North Atlantic for the tourist vessel that set out on a mission to see the century-old Titanic remains in Canadian waters.
The submersible, the noises of which were heard by a Canadian aircraft on the third day of the search, vanished while on a deep-sea adventure with five passengers, including crew members, aboard. It is assumed that only 24 hours of oxygen supply have been left.
According to the US Coast Guard, there is still no indication of the missing Titan submarine.
The Titan, a 21-foot-long submersible operated by OceanGate Expeditions in the United States, lost contact with its parent surface vessel on Sunday morning, about one hour and 45 minutes into a two-hour dive to the site of the world’s most renowned shipwreck.
According to its specifications, the mini-sub was supposed to stay below for 96 hours, giving its five occupants till Thursday AM when the air supply ran out if the vessel was still intact.
The fate of the submersible and everyone aboard remained unknown while teams from the United States, Canada, and France intensified their search across an area of open sea larger than Connecticut.
The Titanic, a British ocean liner that collided with an iceberg during its maiden voyage on the night of April 14, 1912, and sank the next morning, lies about 900 miles (1,450 km) east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and 400 miles (644 km) south of St John’s, Newfoundland.
According to US Coast Guard Captain Jamie Frederick, at a press conference on day three of the search, planes and ships from the US Coast Guard, US Navy, and Canadian armed forces have scanned more than 7,600 square miles of the North Atlantic as of Tuesday.
British billionaire Hamish Harding, 58, and Pakistani-born businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, with his 19-year-old son Suleman, both British nationals, were among those aboard Titan for the $250,000-per-person tourism voyage.
On board were also French adventurer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, and Stockton Rush, founder, and CEO of OceanGate Expeditions. No passenger’s identification has been confirmed by authorities.
Robotic search redirected
According to Frederick, the search effort included Lockheed P-3 Orion turboprop planes outfitted with subsurface monitoring equipment to locate submarines.
The Canadian military deployed sonar buoys to listen for Titan-related sounds, and a commercial pipeline-laying vessel equipped with a remote-controlled deepwater submersible was also looking near the site, he said.
Separately, at the request of the US Navy, a French research ship carrying its own deep-sea diving robot submersible was despatched to the search region and was due to reach Wednesday night local time, according to the Ifremer research institute.
On Tuesday, Canada’s P-3 aircraft detected underwater noises in the search region, prompting “ROV” (remotely operated vehicle) searches to be “relocated in an attempt to explore the origin of the noises,” according to Coast Guard tweets.
“The ROV searches have yielded negative results, but they continue,” the Coast Guard stated, adding that the P-3 data had been given with US Navy experts for “further analysis, which will be considered in future search plans.”
The Coast Guard provided no information on the type or breadth of the sounds.
However, CNN and Rolling Stone magazine independently claimed late Tuesday that thumping sounds were heard by Canadian aircraft at 30-minute intervals in the search region, citing internal US government contacts.
The sounds were caught up by sonar buoys, according to Rolling Stone, and subsequent sonar picked up more hammering four hours later.
According to a US official paper quoted by CNN, additional sounds were heard around four hours after the initial banging was detected, albeit the second incident was not identified as thumping.
Bolted from outside
According to experts, rescuers face significant challenges in both discovering the Titan and saving the people on board.
According to Alistair Greig, a marine engineering expert at University College London, in the case of a mid-dive emergency, the Titan’s pilot would most likely have released weights to float back to the surface. However, without contact, identifying a van-sized submersible in the wide Atlantic would be difficult, he said.
The submersible is bolted shut from the exterior, preventing people from fleeing on their own even if it surfaces.
If the Titan were stuck on the ocean floor, a rescue effort would face even greater challenges due to extreme hydrostatic pressure and total darkness on the sea floor more than 2 miles deep. Titanic expert Tim Matlin said it would be “almost impossible to effect a sub-to-sub rescue” on the seabed.
The sinking of the Titanic, which killed more than 1,500 people, has been immortalized in books and films, including the 1997 blockbuster movie “Titanic,” which renewed popular interest in the wreck.