'They've been waiting for this': Last text sent by British billionaire onboard missing Titanic submarine revealed

20 June 2023, 10:31 | Updated: 20 June 2023, 13:10

Hamish Harding sent his friend Col Virts a text before the expedition launched
Hamish Harding sent his friend Col Virts a text before the expedition launched. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A friend of British billionaire Hamish Harding, who went missing on the Titanic submarine in the Atlantic, has revealed the excited last text he received from his pal.

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Former Nasa astronaut Colonel Terry Virts was said Mr Harding told him: "Hey, we're headed out tomorrow, it looks good, the weather's been bad so they've been waiting for this."

Mr Harding is one of five people on board the submersible Titan, which takes tourists down to see the wreck of the Titanic.

But it has gone missing and a massive search and rescue operation involving the US Coast Guard and Canadian forces has been launched.

Read more: Race against time: Titanic sub search has hours to find missing explorers as experts warn of difficult rescue mission

Col Virts told Good Morning Britain: "We don't really talk about risks, it's known. He understood the risks for sure, there's no doubt about that.

"The last text I got was, 'Hey, we're headed out tomorrow, it looks good, the weather's been bad so they've been waiting for this'.

Hamish Harding is missing
Hamish Harding is missing. Picture: Alamy

"He went down to the deepest part of the ocean, set a few world records… at the Mariana Trench [deepest part of the ocean] and we talked quite a bit about the risks and the different things that they were going to be able to do. So he was very excited about it."

He said the expedition, run by OceanGate, was not just for tourism, but said some "serious science" was planned because they wanted to examine the Titanic to see how it was changing.

Read more: Inside the Titan submersible lost on Titanic exploration trip: cramped 670cm-long tube is steered by PlayStation controls

Mr Harding texted his friend about the expedition
Mr Harding texted his friend about the expedition. Picture: Alamy

The Titan vessel lost contact with its mother ship, the Polar Prince, just under two hours into an expedition to the wreck, which lies some 12,000ft underwater and 400 miles off Newfoundland.

It is reported the last of the pings it should send to the Polar Prince every 15 minutes was received on Monday afternoon UK time. Its last was apparently above the wreck.

The rescue mission, which includes private vessels, is in a race against time with fears the oxygen supply on the sub will run out about midday on Thursday, UK time.

Read more: Who is Hamish Harding? The British billionaire and Guinness World Record holder missing on the Titanic expedition

Col Virts said his friend did not discuss the risks
Col Virts said his friend did not discuss the risks. Picture: Alamy

They face tough conditions, with waves in the area reaching up to six feet amid poor visibility.

It would be particularly challenging to mount a rescue effort if the sub has sunk to the ocean bed. Sonars are being used to find the vessel while ships and planes fly overhead to examine the surface.

Mr Harding, 58, set a Guinness World Record for longest duration spent at the bottom of the sea in the Mariana Trench, spending four hours and 15 minutes there in 2021, and the record for longest distance at the bottom of the ocean after travelling three miles.

He also set a record in 2019 for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth, travelling across north and south poles in a Gulfstream jet.

He is onboard alongside two Pakistanis - Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman - Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, as well as 73-year-old French explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet.

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