Titanic submersible missing with search and rescue operations underway

A submersible craft used to take tourists two miles beneath the North Atlantic to see the wreck of the Titanic has gone missing, with search and rescue currently underway.
John Loeffler
A file photo of the OceanGate Titan submersible
A file photo of the OceanGate Titan submersible


A major search and rescue operation is underway for a submersible craft used to take tourists to see the wreck of the Titanic more than two miles beneath the surface in the North Atlantic.

OceanGate, which reportedly charges $250,000 for a seat to view the remains of the world's most infamous shipwreck, said that "We are exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely." according to a statement on Twitter.

"Our entire focus is on the crewmembers in the submersible and their families," the company added. "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 BBC, which first reported the news of the missing submersible, has identified it as the company's Titan craft, based on it being the only craft listed on OceanGate's website that is capable of descending to the depth necessary to view the Titanic's remains.

The Titan submersible seats five people: three paying passengers, a pilot, and a "content expert". The carbon-fiber vessel weighs about 23,000 lbs and has enough oxygen for four days with a full complement of five. When contact was lost with the submersible, or how deep it was when contact was lost, isn't clear. The company told the BBC that the Polar Prince, a vessel used to transport the submersible to the launch site, was also involved in the expedition that is currently missing.

According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for the Boston Coastguard confirmed that five people were aboard the submersible when it went missing. Among them is thought to be British businessman Hamish Harding.

Harding posted to Instagram on Saturday that “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. A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow. We started steaming from St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, yesterday and are planning to start dive operations around 4am tomorrow morning. Until then we have a lot of preparations and briefings to do... The team on the sub has a couple of legendary explorers, some of which have done over 30 dives to the RMS Titanic since the 1980s.”

The wreck of the Titanic, which sank in 1912 about 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, sits about 3,800m (about 12,500 feet or 2.36 miles) under the sea. Of the roughly 2,200 passengers on board at the time of its sinking, more than 1,500 of them died. The wreck of the Titanic was discovered in 1986, 74 years after it sank.

OceanGate offers its clients "rare, up-close views, through a round window and high-tech cameras, of the sunken ship, the hundreds of marine species that now live on the hull, and the debris field strewn with the Titanic‘s fixtures and its passengers’ personal items."