Titanic Submarine Is Missing, Rescue Operation Underway

Five people aboard a submarine exploring the Titanic wreckage have been missing since Sunday.

By Robert Scucci | Updated

Science Alert reports that the Titan, the five-person submersible that has lost contact with the surface in its underwater expedition to explore the RMS Titanic, remains missing. The US Coast Guard as well as its Canadian counterparts are tirelessly conducting a search party 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, where the Titanic’s wreckage is located.

Considering the remoteness of the area, as well as the small size of the OceanGate Expeditions operated vessel (21 feet), rescue teams are tasked with finding a needle in a haystack in their ongoing search for Titan.

The vessel, which is capable of submerging to a maximum depth of 4,000 meters, lost radio contact two hours into its mission after beginning its descent on Sunday, which leaves us with two possible scenarios according to Alistair Grieg, professor of marine engineering at University College London.

The more positive prognosis that Grieg suggests is that there was simply an electrical or communications problem, and that Titan could have already surfaced, waiting to be located and rescued. The second scenario, which is the less favorable outcome, suggests that the pressure hull could have possibly been compromised by a leak, meaning that the vessel could experience a similar watery fate to the Titanic itself.

As of Monday afternoon, US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger stated that Titan was equipped with 96 hours worth of oxygen for five people in its expedition to explore the Titanic. Since time only marches forward, finding the missing vessel is a top priority because that only gives search crews a four-day window to ensure the safety of the crew trapped inside.

titanic suvivor

Currently, Canadian aircraft are performing aerial searches while using buoys to scan underneath the surface for Titan.

One of the problems that search parties are running into is how deep Titan is capable of submerging. In order to reach the Titanic, Titan was designed to withstand a tremendous amount of pressure, making it an outlier compared to other vessels that aren’t equipped to submerge as deep as the vessel they’re attempting to rescue.

In other words, we’re not just dealing with the daunting task of locating Titan, but also bringing it back to the surface if other submersible vessels can’t reach it themselves, which would prove quite difficult from an engineering standpoint.

Among the five missing crew members is British businessman Hamish Harding, who holds three Guinness World Records; one of which boasts the longest amount of time spent at full ocean depth by a crewed vessel. Harding also made a trip to space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket in June 2022. But despite Harding’s experience in successfully traveling to far-off places, we’re hoping that his expedition to the Titanic isn’t his last.

In an ideal world, Titan is floating along somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland, and the crew inside is safe despite their failed mission. But if the vessel sank beyond the depths of the Titanic, or slipped even further beyond the continental shelf, there are very few vessels that can travel as deep as Titan, or safely pull the vessel up to the surface for that matter.

We’ll continue to look out for updates, but as of now the clock is ticking, and oxygen levels will continue to diminish as time passes. Fortunately, if there aren’t any structural breaches, then Titan has a couple of days’ worth of oxygen remaining.

And if the vessel is still able to power itself, then it’s not outside the realm of possibility that it could find the surface on its own rather than remaining at the bottom of the ocean alongside the Titanic.