June 21, 2023 - Missing Titanic sub search news

By Helen Regan, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Ivana Kottasová, Rob Picheta, Ed Upright, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 1:12 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023
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11:35 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Banging sounds heard during Titan search Tuesday, according to internal government memo

From CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez

Crews searching for the Titan submersible heard banging sounds every 30 minutes Tuesday, according to an internal government memo update on the search.

Four hours later, after additional sonar devices were deployed, banging was still heard, the memo said. It was unclear when the banging was heard Tuesday or for how long, based on the memo.

A subsequent update sent Tuesday night suggested more sounds were heard, though it was not described as “banging.”

“Additional acoustic feedback was heard and will assist in vectoring surface assets and also indicating continued hope of survivors,” according to that update.

A Canadian P3 aircraft also located a white rectangular object in the water, according to that update, but another ship set to investigate was diverted to help research the acoustic feedback instead, according to that update.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Center is working to find an underwater remote operated vehicle to help assist in the search, according to the memo.

CNN has reached out to OceanGate, the US Coast Guard in Boston and Canadian authorities for comment.

Rolling Stone was first to report the news Tuesday night.

CNN’s Andy Rose and Paul Murphy contributed to this report.

11:31 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

OceanGate explains why the Titan submersible is not "classed"

From CNN’s Celina Tebor

In a 2019 blog post on OceanGate’s website, the company said most marine operations “require that chartered vessels are ‘classed’ by an independent group such as the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), DNV/GL, Lloyd’s Register, or one of the many others.”

This "classing" system ensures vessels are designed and built following regulations such as the number of life rafts or types of materials used.

But the Titan submersible that went missing en route to the Titanic wreck, is not classed, the blog post said. 

It said classing innovative designs often requires a multiyear approval process, which gets in the way of rapid innovation.

Classing agencies “do not ensure that operators adhere to proper operating procedures and decision-making processes — two areas that are much more important for mitigating risks at sea. The vast majority of marine (and aviation) accidents are a result of operator error, not mechanical failure,” it said.

“Classing assures ship owners, insurers, and regulators that vessels are designed, constructed and inspected to accepted standards. Classing may be effective at filtering out unsatisfactory designers and builders, but the established standards do little to weed out subpar vessel operators — because classing agencies only focus on validating the physical vessel,” it read. 

 “By itself, classing is not sufficient to ensure safety,” the blog post said. 
10:51 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

OceanGate touted Titan's safety features, despite conflicting info over its development

From CNN’s Celina Tebor

In a 2021 court filing, OceanGate’s legal representative touted the specifications and a hull monitoring system that he called “an unparalleled safety feature” built into the Titan submersible.

The legal representative informed the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which oversees matters related to the Titanic, of the company’s expedition plans at the time.

The filing lays out the Titan’s testing details and its specifications, including that it had undergone more than 50 test dives and detailing its 5-inch-thick carbon fiber and titanium hull.

The filing said OceanGate’s vessel was the result of more than eight years of work, including “detailed engineering and development work under a company issued $5 million contract to the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory.”

But according to the University of Washington, the laboratory never dealt with design or engineering for OceanGate’s Titan vessel. 

In a statement to CNN, Kevin Williams, the executive director of UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory, said the lab’s expertise involved “only shallow water implementation,” and “the Laboratory was not involved in the design, engineering or testing of the TITAN submersible used in the RMS TITANIC expedition.”

In 2022, the legal representative updated the Virginia court on OceanGate’s expeditions in another court filing.  

“On the first dive to the Titanic, the submersible encountered a battery issue and had to be manually attached to its lifting platform,” the filing in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia reads. 
“OceanGate decided to cancel the second mission for repairs and operational enhancements” after the vessel “sustained modest damage to its external components,” it reads.

There were no submersible-related issues that canceled dives on the third, fourth, or fifth missions, according to the court filing. 

CNN has reached out to OceanGate for comment. 

10:28 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

US Coast Guard releases image showing search pattern for missing submersible

From CNN's Amanda Jackson

Search patterns used in the search for the Titan submersible.
Search patterns used in the search for the Titan submersible. US Coast Guard

The US Coast Guard released an image showing the search pattern for the Titan submersible — and provided an update on existing and incoming resources that are expected to aid in the search for the underwater vessel.

A New York Air National Guard C-130 arrived at about 4 p.m. to assist in the search, joining "Deep Energy," a Bahamian research vessel that arrived around 7 a.m., and was conducting remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations, the Coast Guard said.

The following additional assets are also en route to the scene, the US Coast Guard said:

  • Canadian CGS John Cabot
  • Canadian CGS Ann Harvey
  • Canadian CGS Terry Fox
  • Canadian CGS Atlantic Merlin (ROV) 
  • Motor Vessel Horizon Arctic 
  • Commercial Vessel Skandi Vinland (ROV) 
  • French Research Vessel L’Atalante (ROV) 
  • HM Canadian Ship Glace Bay (mobile decompression chamber and medical personnel) 
“This is a complex search effort which requires multiple agencies with subject matter expertise and specialized equipment which we have gained through the unified command,” Capt. Jamie Frederick, the response coordinator from the First Coast Guard District, said in a press release.
“While the Coast Guard has assumed the role of Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, we do not have all of the necessary expertise and equipment required in a search of this nature,” he added. “The Unified Command brings that expertise and additional capability together to maximize effort in solving this complex problem.”
9:36 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

NY Times: Submersible industry leaders were concerned about OceanGate's "experimental" approach

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

Industry leaders expressed concerns five years ago about OceanGate Expeditions' "experimental approach" to the Titan submersible and its planned trip to the site of the Titanic wreckage, the New York Times reported Tuesday

The Manned Underwater Vehicles committee of the Marine Technology Society penned a letter to OceanGate's CEO Stockton Rush in 2018, it said.

"Our apprehension is that the current 'experimental' approach adopted by Oceangate could result in negative outcomes (from minor to catastrophic) that would have serious consequences for everyone in the industry," said the letter obtained by the Times.

Specifically, it expressed concern over the company's compliance with a maritime risk assessment certification known as DNV-GL. 

"Your marketing material advertises that the TITAN design will meet or exceed the DNV-GL safety standards, yet it does not appear that Oceangate has the intention of following DNV-GL class rules," the letter said.

The leaders wrote that portraying the Titan this way is misleading to the public and "breaches an industry-wide professional code of conduct we all endeavor to uphold."

OceanGate has not responded to a request for comment on the letter. 

The company's CEO, Stockton Rush, is one of the five passengers onboard the missing Titan submersible, a source told CNN on Tuesday.

9:28 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

The submersible lost contact less than 2 hours into its descent. Here's the path to the Titanic wreckage

From CNN's Lou Robinson

The Titan submersible, a small vessel carrying five people, was on a trip to view the wreckage of the Titanic when it lost contact with the Polar Prince, the vessel that transported it to the North Atlantic Ocean.

The wreckage lies around 12,500 feet below sea level — that's about 10 times the height of the Empire State Building.

Here's a look at what the descent to the wreckage site is like:

9:23 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

US Navy sending experts and deep ocean salvage system to aid in submersible search

From CNN's Haley Britzky and Oren Liebermann

The US Navy is sending subject matter experts and a “Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System (FADOSS)” to assist in the search and rescue of a tour sub that has been missing since Sunday, a spokesperson said Tuesday. 

The FADOSS is a “motion compensated lift system designed to provide reliable deep ocean lifting capacity for the recovery of large, bulky, and heavy undersea objects such as aircraft or small vessels,” the spokesperson said.

A Navy information page on the FADOSS says it can lift up to 60,000 pounds. 

The equipment and personnel are expected to arrive at St. John’s by Tuesday night and will be in support of the US Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said Tuesday that the search has not yielded anything so far, but it is continuing to look both on the surface and underwater for the missing submersible. Officials estimated at about 1 p.m. ET Tuesday that the crew onboard has "about 40 hours of breathable air left."

10:48 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Timeline: The submersible was last seen heading into the water on Sunday morning

From CNN's Gabe Cohen

The Titan submersible went missing while it was on a tour of the wreckage of the Titanic. Here is the timeline that was set for the vessel, according to Miawpukek Maritime Horizon Services, which co-owns the Polar Prince, the support ship that helped launch Titan.

All times are in Atlantic Daylight Time, which is 1.5 hours ahead of Eastern Time:

Friday, June 16: The Polar Prince departs St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Saturday, June 17: The Polar Prince arrives at the dive site.

Sunday, June 18:

  • 9 a.m. The dive operations start.
  • 11:47 a.m. The last communication between the vessel and surface staff of OceanGate, the group that was conducting the expedition, is recorded.
  • 6:10 p.m. This is the time the vessel was originally scheduled to resurface.
  • 6:35 p.m. Authorities are notified and a response operation is initiated.
9:17 p.m. ET, June 20, 2023

What it's like inside the missing vessel

From CNN's Lauren Said-Moorhouse

Officials are racing against the clock to locate the civilian submersible that had five people aboard when it went missing Sunday.

CNN’s Gabe Cohen has previously reported on the operator OceanGate Expeditions and had toured the Titan vessel out of the water during his time at CNN affiliate KOMO in 2018.

Speaking to CNN This Morning, Cohen said he recalled being “blown away by how simple” the onboard tech seemed.

“It's this tiny vessel, quite cramped and small. You have to sit inside of it, shoes off... It is operated... by a gaming controller, what essentially looks like a PlayStation controller,” he explained.

“It could dive 13,000 feet down into the ocean and handle 150 million pounds of pressure that it would feel on the ocean floor.

"It was incredible to see, at that time, right as they were packing up the vessel and getting ready for one of these expeditions. So, it is obviously very difficult and sad to see what’s happened now," Cohen added.

The company was founded in 2009 by its current CEO Stockton Rush. Cohen explained that the company has conducted many science-driven expeditions to various shipwrecks, not just the Titanic, over the years.

While discussing the use of consumer-friendly products used onboard, like the game controller, Cohen said that he'd asked OceanGate about it. "They also stressed that the carbon fiber structure of Titan could reliably pull off a mission like this. They did not spare any expense or cut any corners to pull that off — that is what they repeatedly said to me."

He continued: "I interviewed Stockton Rush several times. Not just him but his staff and crew. They talked about safety over and over and how confident they were in the technology of this vessel, and the other vessels they had designed over time, but we have since learned that Titan has had some issues before with communication."

Cohen referred to a CBS report that last year the vessel was lost for more than two hours unable to get messages from the surface, which it relies on to figure out where to go as there’s no GPS underwater.