Missing Titanic sub day 3: 'Loud banging' offers glimmer of hope, but historic safety concerns emerge

The source of 'loud banging' has not yet been located, and safety concerns about the Titan's carbon hull may have been ignored.
Sejal Sharma
The Titan sub
The Titan sub


Search and rescue operations in the North Atlantic have entered their third day as they look for the missing OceanGate Titan submersible, which has five passengers on board.

All contact with the submersible was lost one hour and 45 minutes into its dive to the wreck of the Titanic, some 13,000ft (nearly 4000m) under the sea.

Loud banging

A glimmer of hope was offered on Tuesday when Coast Guards picked up a loud banging sound with their sonar, according to an internal US government memo in possession of CNN.

According to the memo, crews detected banging sounds every 30 minutes, and the banging could still be heard after four hours when additional sonar devices were deployed.

However, the US Coast Guard was unable to identify the source of the sound.

They tweeted the following:

No escape

The Titan sub is bolted shut from the outside. So, even if the vessel surfaces, the occupants cannot escape without outside assistance and could suffocate within the capsule, according to BBC.

"There's no backup, there's no escape pod. It's get to the surface or die," said CBS correspondent David Pogue, who previously took a trip on the submersible.

Take a look at some of his CBS report from last summer, when the Titan was also lost for a few hours:

Titan was last reported in the North Atlantic, approximately 900 miles east of Cape Cod.

Interesting Engineering reported yesterday that the sub is equipped with oxygen to last four days, with a full complement of five passengers.

As per estimates, the oxygen in the sub will last until Thursday afternoon or evening.

Safety concerns

As the huge search and rescue operation continues, information is beginning to surface about regulatory and safety concerns with the OceanGate sub. 

As reported in The New Republic, in a court case against OceanGate in 2018, David Lochridge, a submersible pilot for the company had voiced concerns about the safety of the Titan sub and flaws in its carbon hull, which he believed might go undetected without more stringent testing. He urged the company to have an outside agency certify the vessel.

According to the report, Lochridge’s verbal warning went unnoticed and after he wrote a report about it, he was fired.

Certified depth

Lochridge revealed in the court that at the time, Titan’s manufacturers only certified it to a depth of 1,300 meters, whereas the Titanic wreck lies some 3,800 meters below the ocean surface.

The temperature there is near freezing and very few animals can survive the extreme pressure.

OceanGate reportedly dismissed his complaints and said that Lochridge “is not an engineer and was not hired or asked to perform engineering services on the Titan.”

NASA support

Lochridge’s revelations are confounding now that we’re learning that the sub was built with NASA’s support.

OceanGate had consulted NASA engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama during the development of the sub, reported Space.com.

OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush, who is believed to be one of the five passengers onboard, had said in March 2022, "NASA's expertise in the design and automated fiber placement lay up of composite hulls was extremely valuable on this project."

In a 2019 interview, Rush complained that the commercial submersible industry was ‘obscenely safe,’ and that the regulations governing the industry held back innovation, reported Insider.

The same year, OceanGate started advertising commercial trips to see the Titanic wreck.

Much has been made of the sub’s steering being run by a $30 Logitech F710 wireless PC game controller from 2010, but these PlayStation-types of controllers are fairly commonplace for equipment of this nature and widely used by the military.

We will have more on this story as the search and rescue operation continues.

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