US and Canadian search and rescue teams are racing against time to find a tourist submarine expedition that went missing during a dive to the deep sea to explore the Titanic shipwreck.
Five people on board OceanGate’s submersible include its chief executive Stockton Rush, veteran French explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet, Dubai-based British explorer and businessman Hamish Harding, British-Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, reports say.
The expedition started from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, on Sunday, and contact with the small underwater vessel was lost about an hour and 45 minutes into the sea.
The crew members have only three days-worth of oxygen left at the most, according to the US Coast Guard.
“The vehicles designed for navy submarine rescue certainly can’t get down to anywhere near the depth of the Titanic,” BBC quoted submarine expert Prof Alistair Greig from University College London as saying.
The tour operator said in a statement that its entire focus is on the crewmembers in the submersible and their families.
“We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to re-establish contact with the submersible”.
The remains of the Titanic, which sank in 1912, are located at the bottom of the Atlantic about 600 kilometers off the coast of Newfoundland.
OceanGate charges $250,000 per seat to take tourists on board the submarine capable of diving 4000 metres down the ocean.
In an Instagram post ahead of the expedition, Hamish Harding wrote, “I am proud to finally announce that I joined @oceangateexped for their RMS TITANIC Mission as a mission specialist on the sub going down to the Titanic”.
He added, “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”.
Some of the passengers on the deep sea missoin, such as Stockton Rush and Nargeolet, have the experience of making more than 30 dives to the RMS Titanic since the 1980s.
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