OceanGate Expeditions said in a brief statement on Monday that it was “mobilizing all options” to rescue those on board the vessel.
Media reports said the Coast Guard had launched search-and-rescue operations. It was not immediately clear how many people were missing. However, reports later confirmed that 5 people were on board the vessel.
The family of British billionaire Hamish Harding said he was on board. His stepson wrote on Facebook that Harding had “gone missing on submarine” and asked for “thoughts and prayers.” The stepson subsequently removed the post, citing respect for the family’s privacy. Harding himself had posted on Facebook a day earlier that he would be aboard the sub. There have been no posts from him since.
In a statement, OceanGate said, “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.”
The company is currently operating its fifth Titanic “mission” of 2023, according to its website, which had been scheduled to start last week and finish on Thursday.
The expedition, which costs $250,000 per person, starts in St. John’s, Newfoundland, before heading out approximately 400 miles (640 km) into the Atlantic to the wreckage site, according to OceanGate’s website.
In order to visit the wreck, passengers climb inside Titan, the five-person submersible, which takes about two hours to descend to the Titanic.
The British passenger ship famously sank in 1912 on its maiden voyage after striking an iceberg, killing more than 1,500 people. The story has been immortalized in nonfiction and fiction books as well as the 1997 blockbuster movie “Titanic.”
Fears are growing for the five people onboard as the vessel has oxygen for up to 96 hours.
As soon as news spread of the missing sub, #Titanic took over the top trends on Twitter. Those who watched the James Cameron directorial took to the micro-blogging site to express their shock. A viral meme featuring the final scene of the film also took over the top trends, prompting concerned individuals to say, “I hope this meme just stays as black humour and the missing persons turn up.”
Others shared their thoughts on the unfortunate incident and called it the plot of “horror movies.” Other James Cameron fans vowed that they would never descend to the bottom of the ocean without the director by their side. The Oscar winner famously went on several dives to study the Titanic wreckage for his film and even for a documentary.
Here’s all the details that have come to light thus far:
– What happened? –
The 6.5-meter (21-foot) craft began its descent on Sunday but lost contact with the surface less than two hours later, according to authorities.
Its operator, a company called OceanGate Expeditions, told AFP in a statement late Monday that “for some time, we have been unable to establish communications with one of our submersible exploration vehicles which is currently visiting the wreck site of the Titanic.”
The company uses a submersible named Titan for its dives to the wreck, with seats priced at $250,000 apiece, according to its website.
– Who is onboard? –
One of the passengers has been identified as British businessman Hamish Harding, whose aviation firm had posted on social media about his expedition.
Harding, a 58-year-old aviator, space tourist, and chairman of Action Aviation, had posted Sunday on his Instagram account that he was proud to join OceanGate’s Titanic mission.
Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood are also on the craft.
“As of now, contact has been lost with their submersible craft and there is limited information available,” their family said in a statement.
Shahzada Dawood is the vice-chairman of Karachi headquartered conglomerate Engro, which has investments in energy, agriculture, petrochemicals and telecommunications
– Where did the vessel disappear? –
Searchers have been scanning a remote area of the North Atlantic where the Titanic rests 650 kilometres (400 miles) off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, and some 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) underwater.
– What’s the latest on the rescue? –
The US Coast Guard says it launched two planes and its its Canadian counterparts have sent a plane and a ship.
Time is a critical factor, for the vessel has a maximum of 96 hours’ air for five people.
US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger told reporters in Boston on Monday that he believed it still had 70 or more hours remaining.
But with no reported sightings of the vessel or communication signals, his team halted its flights for the day.
It said search operations through the night would be led by the US National Guard and the mission’s operator.
– Why visit the Titanic? –
The 46,000-tonne liner hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage from England to New York in April 1912 with 2,224 passengers and crew on board.
More than 1,500 people died, some of who were tycoons and aristocrats.
The disaster became popularised as an example of hubris, for the ship had been touted as a miracle of the industrial age and unsinkable.
Some also saw in it discrimination, as the vast majority of passengers who died were in second or third class.
The wreck was located in 1985 by a US-French expedition, deepening the fascination in the catastrophe, fuelling a blockbuster 1997 movie and spawning lucrative but high-stakes underwater tourism.