Titanic tourists' best hope: Only rescue ship capable of winching sub to safety joins desperate hunt for Titan

21 June 2023, 15:15

The Titan is believed to be around 12,500ft below the sea surface
The Titan is believed to be around 12,500ft below the sea surface. Picture: US Coast Guard/OceanGate
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Rescue teams are frantically searching for OceanGate's missing Titan submersible, which is holding five men who were on their way to view the Titanic ship wreck.

At the time of writing, it is estimated those on board have less than 24 hours of oxygen left after contact was lost with the sub on Sunday.

The submersible is believed to be around 12,500ft below the surface, which makes it incredibly difficult for rescue teams to reach.

On Tuesday night, an array of vital equipment arrived in Canada as rescue teams prepared to embark on a 15-hour scramble across the Atlantic.

That included a number of obscure electric items with 'high voltage' written on the side.

One vehicle capable of going 20,000ft underwater also landed at St John's airport, Newfoundland, via three US cargo planes.

Read More: Search for missing Titanic sub will continue 'as long as there’s an opportunity for survival' says US Coast Guard chief

In total, five people are trapped in the OceanGate submersible, which offers users the chance to visit the Titanic shipwreck for £195,000.

Those trapped onboard include UK billionaire Hamish Harding, 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.

The US Coast Guard helps with rescue mission
The US Coast Guard helps with rescue mission. Picture: US Coast Guard

If the rescue team is to find the submarine, there is no way of transferring them to an alternate vehicle.

That is because the doors are bolted shut from the outside, meaning they would need to be reeled back up to the surface.

The oceanographic institute in France is sending an elite ship alongside the underwater robot Victor 6000, which could theoretically reach the submersible.

Read More: 24 hours to save Titanic tourists: Rescuers hear banging sounds as they scramble to find missing submarine

Read More: There is still hope that Titanic tourists can be found alive

But rescue teams are in a race against time, with estimates suggesting those on the sub have less than 24 hours of oxygen left.

The "incredibly complex" rescue mission could take all day - or even longer - casting doubts on whether or not they can be found in time.

One way rescuers can pull off a rescue mission is by using a 'Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System'.

That allows a system with a winch that can hook large objects weighing up to 60,000 pounds.

The Titan weighs roughly around 23,000 pounds.

Former Naval Commander says rescue of missing sub is 'impossible.'

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, ex-navy commander, Chris Parry, said the odds of retrieving the vessel are "vanishingly small".

"Obviously, we want to remain hopeful and optimistic but there are two problems here - one is actually finding the thing and secondly is how on earth are we going to get it off the seabed," Dr Parry said.

"It's never been done before and I don't think anybody's got any ideas about how to do it at the moment."

He added: "You've got this vastly complex seabed with all the debris of the Titanic, you've got hills and canyons and everything, and I'm afraid to say without an emitting signal from the vehicle itself it's almost, well, I'd say it's impossible to find in the timescale."

Read More: Has the Titanic sub been found? Timeline of events and latest updates

Last known picture of the Titanic submersible
Last known picture of the Titanic submersible. Picture: social media

Meanwhile, the head of the search effort for the missing submarine has said that the operation to trace the craft will continue "as long as there’s an opportunity for survival".

Rear Admiral John Mauger from the US Coast Guard, who is leading the search. told US news outlets today: "As long as there’s opportunity for survival we will continue to work with this broad unified command to bring every resource to bear on the search.

"Over the course of the next 24 hours we are going to being additional vessels, additional remotely operated vehicles and we are going to continue to fly in the area.

"We’ll continue to look,” he said.

"Our thoughts are with the crew members and the families."