The frantic search near the Titanic wreck site for theThe transport of five people was stepped up and expanded on Thursday with two vessels deploying deep-sea robots – and at least one of the robots has already reached the seabed, officials said.
The Northeast District of the US Coast Guard said in a tweet that the French ship L’Atalante had reached the area and deployed its ROV, i.e. remotely operated vehicle. The Coast Guard also said the Canadian vessel Horizon Arctic deployed an ROV “which reached the seabed and began searching for the missing submarine.”
There has been no confirmed contact with the OceanGate Expeditions Titan submersible since it lost contact with its support vessel Sunday morning, but there have been search planesat roughly half-hourly intervals on both Tuesday and Wednesday, which are said to have come out of the water.
including three tourists, a seasoned French explorer and the owner of OceanGate Stockton Rush, who piloted the submarine.
Search parties were still hoping Thursday morning to find the five living people on the Titan submersible, but as the search area expanded to about twice the size of Connecticut, fears grew that the ship might already be out of oxygen.
The Titan is believed to have carried enough oxygen to last the crew for 96 hours, meaning it could run out of oxygen by Thursday morning if it hasn’t already.
The rescuers focused on a remote area in the North Atlantic, where the underwater popping noises were registered.
“We’re looking where the noise is. That’s all we can do at this point,” US Coast Guard Capt. Jamie Fredrick said Wednesday, stressing that it’s still “a search and rescue mission — 100%.”
As of Thursday, there were no further reports of underwater noise and while questions abounded, there was no doubt that both time and oxygen were running out.
“With any search and rescue incident, you take all of the different factors into account,” Fredrick told CBS News. “How long we’ve been searching, the survivability, the oxygen on board – it’s kind of a complex data set that we’re looking at, but again there’s more than one part and right now we’re focusing on the search.”
Other rescue vessels and equipment joined the effort, but finding the 21-foot-long Titan in the near-freezing, pitch-black seabed conditions in an area with depths of up to 2.5 miles is undoubtedly a challenge.
“If I were a family member, I would remain hopeful,” Capt. David Marquet, who commanded the US Navy’s submarine USS Santa Fe, told CBS News. “But people don’t usually come back from the seabed.”
He said it was “ominous” that there had been no communication from Titan since early Sunday.
“It’s a signal that the crew is incapacitated,” he said of the submarine, which appears to have relied on simple text messages during dives to communicate with its support vessel on the surface.
“It’s a commercial organization,” Marquet said. “They’re really trying to innovate and be up to date…we would have more equipment on our submarines…but we have a nuclear submarine that costs $2 billion. So we have the luxury of having all those things.”
OceanGate has been criticized for years for its seemingly idiosyncratic approach to high-risk deep-sea exploration.
“This company decided to self-certify their submersible,” engineer Bart Kemper, who was a member of the Marine Technology Society, which raised concerns in 2018, told CBS News. “It follows no code and no jurisdiction.”
Kemper said the company agreed to be more transparent with its passengers after his organization raised serious concerns, but continued to operate the test vessel without what the group says is the typical certification for such manned submersibles.
He said the global community of explorers and engineers building such non-military vessels have never lost a submersible before, “and that’s what we’ve lost.” We lost it.”
“We’ve had failures, we’ve had, we’ve had deaths,” he said. “But we have never seen an incident like this.”