A new debris field consistent with what would be expected wreckage of the OceanGate Titan submersible has been located close to the known wreck of the RMS Titanic, and officials have confirmed the submersible has been lost and those aboard are presumed dead.
This is a tragic end to the tense situation that has gripped global interest for days as the fate of the submersible was unknown.
Titan Submersible Wreckage Confirmed
United States Coast Guard officials have confirmed that several pieces of debris identified as parts of the missing 21-foot Titan submersible have been located 1,600 feet (488 meters) in front of Titanic‘s bow, on a smooth ocean floor without other Titanic debris nearby. The discovery was made by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
Five different major pieces of debris have been found, including the submersible’s tail cone, nose cone, and the front bell of the pressure hold. The new development was announced in a press briefing, which you can watch in full below:
This confirms Titan‘s destruction through a catastrophic loss of pressure, with the debris’ location and the size of the debris field indicating the submersible imploded in the water column. The vehicle did not hit the wreckage of Titanic, nor did it become entangled in any part of the sunken vessel.
“The debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber. Upon this determination, we immediately notified the families,” said John Mauger, US Coast Guard Rear Admiral.
At this time, it is too early to tell whether or not the implosion occurred immediately when the submersible lost contact with its guide boat, the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince, or if the implosion happened significantly after that loss of contact. Contact was lost approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes after Titan began what was to have been a seven-hour exploration dive.
Sonar buoys involved with the search efforts did not detect anything consistent with a later implosion, but details must still be examined.
Five Lives Lost
All five individuals onboard the Titan are presumed lost, including OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, British explorer Hamis Harding, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman Dawood.
“On behalf of the United States Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families,” Mauger said when the loss of the vessel was confirmed.
“These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans,” said OceanGate Expeditions in a statement. “Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.”
While the exact depth of the submersible’s failure is not yet known, the depth of Titanic‘s wreckage is 12,500 feet (3,810 m) below sea level, with the bow and stern sections more than 2,600 feet (792 m) apart. At that depth, the external pressure is more than 5,300 pounds per square inch, or roughly 360 times greater than at the ocean’s surface.
Any leak in the submersible, no matter how miniscule, would have resulted in a virtually instantaneous implosion that would crush the occupants before their brains could process that an accident was occurring.
Investigation to Continue
The investigation of what happened to the submersible continues to proceed with ROV exploration, but it is a very complex case in extremely challenging conditions. Documentation of the search efforts, including mapping the debris field, will be meticulous in an attempt to reconstruct the last moments of Titan in an effort to understand the submersible’s failure.
A decision about whether or not to work to recover the remains of the submersible has not yet been made. Multiple search assets from different countries have been involved in locating Titan, and will continue to be involved in the ongoing investigation.
The joint search effort has included the sonar-equipped Canadian Coast Guard vessel John Cabot; commercial vessels Skandi Vinland and Atlantic Merlin; additional Canadian Coast Guard vessels Ann Harvey and Terry Fox; ROV-equipped vessels Horizon Arctic, L’Atalante, and Magellan; as well as US Coast Guard air assets and US Navy experts and support personnel.
“The entire OceanGate family is deeply grateful for the countless men and women from multiple organizations of the international community who expedited wide-ranging resources and have worked so very hard on this mission,” the OceanGate statement read. “We appreciate their commitment to finding these five explorers, and their days and nights of tireless work in support of our crew and their families.”
Cruise Hive’s deepest condolences are with the families of those lost, the exploration community, and everyone involved with the tragic search efforts.