Our live coverage of the search for the missing Titanic sub has moved here.
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.
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.
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.
Two former employees of OceanGate Expeditions separately brought up similar safety concerns about the thickness of the now-missing Titan submersible’s hull when they were employed by the company years ago.
A statement from a research lab appears to show conflicting information about the engineering and testing that went into the development of the vessel.
David Lochridge worked as an independent contractor for OceanGate in 2015, then as an employee between 2016 and 2018, according to court filings. He served as the company’s director of marine operations.
The company terminated his employment and sued Lochridge and his wife in 2018, claiming he shared confidential information, misappropriated trade secrets and used the company for immigration assistance then manufactured a reason to be fired. The lawsuit noted that Lochridge is not an engineer, calling him a submersible pilot and a diver.
In a counter filing, Lochridge claimed he was wrongfully terminated for raising concerns about the safety and testing of the Titan.
Lochridge’s countersuit says he was tasked by OceanGate’s CEO, Stockton Rush, to perform an inspection of the submersible. It says Lochridge brought up concerns that no non-destructive testing had been performed on the Titan’s hull to check for “delaminations, porosity and voids of sufficient adhesion of the glue being used due to the thickness of the hull.”
The suit says that when Lochridge raised the issue, he was told that no equipment existed to perform such a test.
The lawsuit was settled and dismissed in November 2018. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and Lochridge could not be reached for comment.
Court filings from the company indicate there was much additional testing after Lochridge’s time at OceanGate, and it’s unclear whether any of his concerns were addressed as the vessel was developed.
Another former employee of OceanGate who worked briefly for the company during the same time period as Lochridge spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly.
He said he became concerned when the carbon fiber hull of the Titan arrived, echoing Lochridge’s concerns about its thickness and adhesion in his conversation with CNN. He said the hull had only been built to 5 inches thick, while he said company engineers told him they had expected it to be 7 inches thick.
The former employee worked at the submersible company for two and a half months in 2017; he was an operations technician who assisted with towing submersibles out into the ocean and preparing them for the diving operation.
He said more concerns were raised by contractors and employees during his time at OceanGate and Rush became defensive and shied away from answering questions during all-staff meetings. When the former employee raised concerns that OceanGate could potentially be violating a US law relating to Coast Guard inspections directly to Rush, the CEO outright dismissed them, the former employee said, and that’s when he resigned.
CNN has reached out to OceanGate for comment.
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)
· His Majesty's 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,” Captain 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.”
It remains unclear what happened to the missing submersible on Sunday when it lost contact with crews on the surface on its way down to the Titanic wreckage.
But with no word from the vessel, experts say the odds don't look good — and there are a few things that could have gone wrong.
- One major risk is a power cut, which could have caused the loss of communication, said Eric Fusil, a submarine expert and associate professor at the University of Adelaide. Some submersibles have a second source of energy, in case the primary electrical system fails — but it's not clear if the Titan had power backups when it went missing, he said.
- A short circuit could cause a fire on board, which not only would ruin the vessel's systems but create toxic fumes in a small, enclosed space — a major danger to those aboard, he said.
- Flooding is always a risk, and at the depths of the Titanic, the immense pressure would cause most vessels to implode, Fusil said. The Titan is equipped with an innovative new safety feature that monitors pressure on the vessel, and triggers a warning to the pilot if any issues are detected, according to the vessel operator.
- Finally, there's the danger of entanglement. With strong currents underwater and a field of Titanic debris on the ocean floor, there's a chance the submersible could be trapped or find its path blocked, Fusil said.
OceanGate Expeditions CEO Richard Stockton Rush was sued in February by a Florida couple seeking a refund for a trip to see the Titanic wreckage they claim was booked with OceanGate but never happened.
According to the lawsuit, Marc and Sharon Hagle of Winter Park, Florida, signed a contract with Rush to go on a manned submersible dive expedition to the RMS Titanic on Cyclops 2. In November of 2016, the Hagles paid a deposit of $10,000 each, which they say they were told was fully refundable.
But after paying a total of $210,258 and seeing their expedition postponed many times, the lawsuit says they were unable to get a refund. The lawsuit alleges fraudulent inducement and violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Rush is on board the submersible that went missing on Sunday. CNN has reached out to OceanGate for comment on the lawsuit. The online docket for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit shows no response to the lawsuit at this time.
The lawsuit states that the Hagles were each due to pay a $40,000 “milestone payment 15 days after Cyclops 2 made its first dive, approximately around October 2017. Under their contract, a $55,129 final payment each was due on February 1, 2018, which would have been approximately four months before the scheduled date of their expedition," the lawsuit says.
The couple, who were on Blue Origin’s 2022 space mission, became skeptical the expedition would take place and were contemplating requesting a refund, the lawsuit states.
It says Rush visited the couple in Florida in 2017 and explained the design of Cyclops 2 to them as well as the details of the expedition and crew that would be manning the submersible. He also told them Cyclops 2 would be ready to dive to the wreckage as planned, in June 2018, the lawsuit adds. The lawsuit states that Rush confirmed at that time that they would receive a full refund if they wanted.
The Hagles’ lawsuit claims they received a second contract after Rush’s visit that required them to pay the full balance for the expedition, a total of $190,258 more, which they wired to OceanGate. A month after they signed the new contract and wired the money, the name of Cyclops 2 was changed to Titan, the lawsuit says.
The June 2018 expedition was canceled two months later. The lawsuit alleges that the reason they were given was that OceanGate had not had sufficient time to do tests to certify the Titan could reach the depth of the Titanic wreckage, the lawsuit claims.
The new expedition was scheduled for July 2019, but canceled the month before, first saying the support vessel refused to participate and later citing “equipment failure,” according to the suit. The Hagles claim they were then told their new expedition date would be some time in 2020.
The couple then requested a refund of the $210,258 they had paid.
The Hagles claim that though they had been told by OceanGate’s expedition manager that the company was working on a “full refund plan,” they received communication from OceanGate demanding they participate in a July 2021 expedition. If they failed to do so, they would not be entitled to a refund or credit, the lawsuit says they were told.
The couple is asking the court for the return of their monies paid as well as punitive damages.
When reached by CNN, the Hagles’ attorney, Ronny Edwards Jr., declined to comment on the pending litigation, but said, “More important than the litigation, however, is the safe return of the entire Titan crew. My thoughts and prayers are with the crew and their families.”
CNN’s Ross Levitt contributed to this report.
If search crews locate the missing submersible deep in the ocean, authorities will face a highly complex mission to recover the craft and any survivors, an expert said Tuesday.
“There’s very few assets in the world that can go down that deep,” said Ret. Navy Capt. Ray Scott "Chip" McCord, whose 30 years of experience includes overseeing several salvage operations.
McCord said sophisticated naval craft could reach the wreckage of the Titanic at a pace of about 1,000 feet per hour. At more than 12,000 feet below sea level, diving and surfacing could take a full day.
At these depths, a remote craft would be able to explore a limited area rather than cruise along the ocean floor, he said.
“When you’re going deep, you usually go up and down like an elevator,” McCord said. “When you’re going shallow, you can go further like a nuclear submarine.”
Once crews have narrowed their search, they could deploy a cargo van-sized remote-operated craft to locate the submersible. The remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, is tethered to a surface ship with a two-inch thick cable to provide power and communication. The ROV could be moved to a Canadian port by military aircraft, loaded onto a ship by crane, and then steamed to the search site, McCord said.
US military ROVs have electric motors and cameras, but do not have the capacity to lift the missing vessel, McCord said.
Rescuing the missing craft from the ocean depths would require a second, more specialized vehicle known as the Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System, he said. FADOSS includes specialized shock absorbers to handle lifting loads of up to 60,000 pounds without snapping its cable to the surface.
The US Navy said that it is sending a FADOSS to assist in the search and rescue efforts. It is expected to arrive in St. Johns Tuesday night, a spokesperson said.
“None of that stuff works until you find the submersible,” McCord added.