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Jun 20, 2023, 2:30pm EDT
North America

Missing Titanic submersible has 40 hours of oxygen left: Here’s what we know

Titanic wreckage
Reuters/File photo
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The News

The tourist submersible that went missing Monday during an expedition to the Titanic’s wreckage has approximately 40 to 41 hours of oxygen left, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

Search efforts were ongoing but “have not yielded any results,” Capt. Jamie Frederick of the First Coast Guard District said.

Here’s what is known so far about the people on board and the vessel, called the Titan.

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Who are the Titan’s passengers?

OceanGate Expeditions, the company that organizes the dives, said the vessel was fully occupied with five people onboard when it went missing.

Those on board include Hamish Harding, a British businessman and aviator who is the chairman of Action Aviation. He has previously traveled on a submersible to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench and has visited the South Pole a number of times, Action Aviation said in a statement.

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Shahzada Dawood, 48, the vice chairman of Engro Corporation — one of Pakistan’s largest conglomerates — along with his 19-year-old son Suleman, are on board the Titan, his company said.

The CEO of OceanGate, Stockton Rush, 61, along with the vessel’s French pilot, Paul-Henry Nargeolet, 73, are also on board.

What’s the submersible like?

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According to OceanGate, the Titan submersible is 23,000 pounds and is made of carbon fiber and titanium. It differs from a submarine in that it has limited power and requires a separate ship to launch and recover it.

The vehicle is only about as big as a minivan inside. The vessel confirms its location with the mothership every 15 minutes. In this case, the Titan lost communication with Canadian research ship MV Polar Prince about an hour and 45 minutes into the dive.

The submersible has about 96 hours of oxygen, meaning the passengers have until about midday Thursday before supply runs out. In case of an emergency, the vessel can drop weights which would allow it to reach the surface.

The vessel is sealed by 17 bolts on the outside, so even if it does surface, there is no way for the passengers to escape.

Were there safety concerns?

CBS Journalist David Pogue last year took a ride on the Titan, a clip of which has now gone viral.

In the segment, Pogue signed a waiver that described the vehicle as an “experimental submersible vessel that has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body and could result in physical injury, disability, emotional trauma or death.”

Pogue also described the apparent “improvised design” of the Titan, pointing out that it is moved using an off-brand Playstation controller and lighting bought at an outdoor goods store.

There was also an apparent lack of sophisticated communication in the vessel. In Pogue’s ride, the mothership guided the Titan by sending text messages back and forth.

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush told Pogue that he worried about objects like fishing nets potentially blocking the submersible’s ascent. Rush also complained about ”obscenely safe" diving regulations that hindered vessel development.

What is the search-and-rescue status?

Both the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards are searching near the site located about 375 miles southeast of St. Johns, Newfoundland, the departure point of the mothership.

Coast Guard aircraft civilian ships are surveying the area around the Titanic’s wreckage in case the Titan happens to resurface. Boats and buoys with underwater sonar capabilities, alongside a Coast Guard submarine, are are also monitoring the depths.

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