June 20, 2023 Missing Titanic sub search news

By Helen Regan, Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Ed Upright, Mike Hayes, Elise Hammond, Tori B. Powell and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023
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9:10 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

No seats and one toilet: What it's like inside the submersible

The missing submersible is a small vessel designed to only hold five people for a day — two hours down, several hours exploring the Titanic and two hours back to the surface.

Last year, the founder of tour operator OceanGate Expeditions showed a CBS team the inside of a submersible used to visit the Titanic's wreckage. The CBS video shows a small chamber, with about as much space as a minivan.

There are no chairs or seats and the passengers sit cross-legged on the floor, having taken off their shoes before entering.

For such an advanced submersible, the interior is mostly bare and simple, with just one button and a screen on the wall. The rest of the vessel's operations are run on a handheld controller that looks remarkably similar to a gaming console, complete with colorful buttons.

There's only one small toilet in the vessel's front, which "doubles as the best seat in the house," according to an OceanGate webpage that's no longer available. It added that when the toilet is being used, they install a privacy curtain "and turn the music up loud."

It recommended that passengers restrict their diet before and during the dive "to reduce the likelihood that you will need to use the facilities."

Watch the video:

9:10 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

What is the submersible that went missing en route to the Titanic shipwreck?

From CNN's Jessie Yeung

The submersible, named Titan, is operated by OceanGate Expeditions, which handles expeditions to the Titanic wreckage.

According to OceanGate, Titan is a 23,000-pound submersible made of carbon fiber and titanium that's "designed to take five people to depths of 4,000 meters (13,123 feet)."

As a safety feature, the sub uses a “proprietary real-time hull health monitoring (RTM) system” that analyzes the pressure on the vessel and the integrity of the structure, the company states. Any issues detected would trigger an “early warning” to the pilot, to leave “enough time to … safely return to the surface.”

Unlike a submarine, a submersible has limited power reserves so it needs a mother ship that can launch and recover it, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

When CBS correspondent David Pogue took a trip on the Titan down to the Titanic wreck last year, on the invitation of OceanGate, he said the hatch was sealed from the outside with 17 bolts — there was no other way out. 

With no GPS underwater, the submersible is only guided by text messages from the surface ship. On Pogue’s trip, communications broke down during a dive and the submersible was lost for over two hours, he said.

Read more here.

1:44 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Former US Navy submarine captain says "odds don't seem good" for missing crew

From CNN's Brad Lendon

It doesn't bode well that search parties still haven’t heard from the missing submersible, former US Navy submarine captain Thomas Shugart told CNN on Monday.

"While I hope for the best for the submersible’s crew and passengers, I have to say that at this point things look very much in doubt, given that they’ve not been heard from for this long," said Shugart, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security.

Shugart said a locator beacon likely would have detected the vessel by now if it had a "relatively minor issue that forced them to surface unexpectedly."

"If instead they are stuck on the bottom for some reason, I have yet to hear of a rescue capability that could get them back in time," he said. "And if the sub went to the bottom due to flooding, given the extreme depths involved, once again the odds don’t seem good."

Shugart added that his experience is limited with the problems the crew may have run into at these depths.

9:04 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

How did the submersible go missing and how much time do they have?

From CNN's Jessie Yeung

It’s still not clear what happened to the submersible, why it lost contact, and how close to the Titanic it was when it went missing.

The submersible began its two-hour descent to the wreck on Sunday morning, which is about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

It lost contact with the Polar Prince, the support ship that transported the vessel to the site, 1 hour and 45 minutes into its descent, officials said. 

Search operations began later that day.

Coast Guard officials estimated on Monday afternoon the submersible had “somewhere between 70 to the full 96 hours” of oxygen — potentially giving rescuers until Friday to locate and retrieve the vessel. 

But the depth of the area where they went missing could pose a challenge.

The deepest ever underwater rescue was that of Roger Chapman and Roger Mallinson, who were rescued from a submersible at depths of 1,575 feet in 1973. They were trapped for 76 hours before finally being hauled to the surface. 

The Titanic wreckage is much deeper, sitting nearly 13,000 feet below sea level.

Other factors complicating the search include its distance from the coast, local weather conditions, and unknowns like the state of the submersible and whether it has working equipment like acoustic pingers that can be detected by search teams.

Read more here.

1:22 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Pakistani father and son are on board missing submersible, family say

From CNN's Sophia Saifi in Karachi, Pakistan

A Pakistani father and son are on board a submersible carrying five people to see the wreck of the Titanic at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean, according to a statement released by the family Tuesday. 

The statement named Shahzada Dawood and his son, Sulaiman Dawood, as being on the "journey to visit the remnants of the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean."

"As of now, contact has been lost with their submersible craft and there is limited information available," the Dawood family statement said.
"A rescue effort that is being jointly led by multiple government agencies and deep-sea companies is underway to reestablish contact with the submersible and bring them back safely.
"We are very grateful for the concern being shown by our colleagues and friends and would like to request everyone to pray for their safety while granting the family privacy at this time. The family is well looked after and are praying to Allah for the safe return of their family members."

Shahzada Dawood is a trustee of the SETI Institute in California, according to a biography published on its website. According to the biography, Dawood is vice chairman of Dawood Hercules Corporation, part of the Dawood Group.  

1:16 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Titanic's fate has long been a source of fascination. Here are some key facts about the luxury liner

From CNN staff

The port bow railing of the Titanic lies in 12,600 feet of water about 400 miles east of Nova Scotia as photographed  as part of a joint scientific and recovery expedition sponsored by the Discovery Channel and RMS Titantic.
The port bow railing of the Titanic lies in 12,600 feet of water about 400 miles east of Nova Scotia as photographed as part of a joint scientific and recovery expedition sponsored by the Discovery Channel and RMS Titantic. Reuters/FILE

The submersible that has gone missing in the North Atlantic was part of an expedition to view the wreckage of the RMS Titanic, perhaps the most famous shipwreck in the world.

More than 100 years after its disastrous maiden voyage, the fate of the luxury liner has long served as a source of fascination, and been the backdrop for countless books, fiction and non-fiction and, of course, a blockbuster movie.

The ship set sail from Southampton, England, to New York on April 10, 1912.

Then, between April 14 to 15, it hit an iceberg around midnight and sank in less than three hours.

A total of 1,517 people died and 706 survived out of 2,223 passengers and crew, according to the US Senate report on the disaster.

Here are more interesting facts about the Titanic:

The ship: The estimated cost of construction was $7.5 million. At the time, the RMS Titanic was the largest passenger ship afloat. The ship’s length was 882 feet, 9 inches, and it weighed 46,328 tons. Its top speed was 23 knots. The wreckage is located about 350 miles off the southeast coast of Newfoundland.

How the Titanic sank: The iceberg punctured five of 16 supposedly watertight compartments designed to hold water in case of a breach to the hull. Investigations at the time blamed Capt. Edward Smith for going too fast in dangerous waters, initial ship inspections that had been done too quickly, insufficient room in the lifeboats for all passengers, and a nearby ship’s failure to help. Many maritime safety reforms were implemented as a result of the findings of the investigations.

Smith went down with the ship, and his body was never recovered.

Key dates post-shipwreck:

  • September 1, 1985: Scientists from Woods Hole Deep Submergence LAB in Massachusetts, led by Dr. Robert Ballard, and IFREMER, the French Institute Francais de Recherche pour l’Exploitation des Mers, led by Jean Jarry, locate the wreckage of Titanic.
  • July 13, 1986: Ballard and his crew use the manned deep-ocean research submersible Alvin to explore the wreckage. The Alvin is accompanied by a remotely operated vehicle named Jason Jr. to conduct photographic surveys and further inspections.
  • May 31, 2009: The last known survivor, Millvina Dean, dies at age 97.
  • April 8-20, 2012: The 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s voyage. The MS Balmoral traces the ship’s route from Southampton to New York and holds a memorial service, above the wreck, on April 15.
  • Summer, 2022: Deep sea investigators Magellan and filmmakers Atlantic Productions use deep sea mapping to create "an exact ‘Digital Twin’ of the Titanic wreck for the first time."

Read more here.

1:06 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

French explorer PH Nargeolet was scheduled to be on the submersible, social media post says

From CNN's Dave Alsup

French diver PH Nargeolet was scheduled to be on the dive with the missing submersible in the North Atlantic, according to a social media post Saturday by businessman and adventurer Hamish Harding.

Harding is one of the passengers on the submersible that went missing during a dive to the wreckage of the Titanic, according to a social media post by his company, Action Aviation. 

“The team on the sub has a couple of legendary explorers, some of which have done over 30 dives to the RMS Titanic since the 1980s including PH Nargeolet,” Harding said in a Facebook post, according to CTV News. 

Larry Daley, a St. John's-based diver who reportedly made the trip to the Titanic two decades ago, told CBC News Nargeolet was one of the people on the current expedition.  

In a news conference Monday, the US Coast Guard Boston did not release the names of any of the five people onboard the missing submersible. It is unclear from the agency if Nargeolet was among those who boarded the vessel the morning after Harding's social media post.  

CNN has attempted to reach out independently to Nargeolet with no success.  

12:45 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Deep waters are a big challenge for rescue vessels — even the US Navy's most advanced subs

From CNN's Brad Lendon

Depending where and at what depth the submersible is found, there could be limited options for rescue vessels — even the US Navy's advanced fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

The Navy's multibillion-dollar nuclear-powered subs can stay under water as long as the provisions for the crew hold out and usually operate at 800 feet or less.

The maximum depth for subs is classified, but reputable experts say the deepest a US Navy sub can go is 1,500 to 2,000 feet, depending upon the class of submarine.

Below those depths, the water pressure on the hull of the submarine would cause it to implode, meaning they can’t dive down to the ocean floor, where the wreckage of the Titanic is located.

The Navy does have specialized rescue submersibles, but even those can only make rescues at depths up to 2,000 feet, according to the Navy’s Underwater Rescue Command.

Deepest rescue: The deepest ever underwater rescue was that of Roger Chapman and Roger Mallinson, who were rescued from a submersible at depths of 1,575 feet in 1973. They were trapped for 76 hours before finally being hauled to the surface.

During that rescue, authorities used other submersibles and a remotely operated, Navy-developed recovery vessel to attach lines to their vessel, the Pisces III, which were then used to pull it back to the surface.

It’s not clear whether these methods could work for the Titan, given the uncertainty around its location.

12:22 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Search teams could face choppy seas and foggy weather

From CNN's Robert Shackelford

The missing submersible was on an eight-day expedition to the Titanic wreck site, departing from St. John’s, Newfoundland on Sunday.

Weather conditions in the area at the time included choppy seas, with 3 to 6 feet waves, and foggy conditions, according to CNN meteorologists.

While these conditions aren't too out of of the ordinary for the area, they could cause some delays for search parties due to the difficulty of using certain aerial equipment in low clouds. 

On Monday, the US Coast Guard said it was "bringing all assets to bear" in the search for the submersible but the effort was "complicated by local weather conditions."