The fate of five tourists who went missing while diving to the Titanic wreck remains unknown, as the search operation enters its third day. The tourists were on board a submersible called Titan, operated by OceanGate Expeditions, a company that offers exclusive trips to the sunken liner. The submersible lost contact with its support ship on Sunday morning, about 435 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada.
The missing passengers include Stockton Rush, the founder and CEO of OceanGate, Hamish Harding, a British billionaire and adventurer who has been to space and the South Pole, Paul-Henry Nargeolet, a French marine archaeologist known as “Mr. Titanic” for his extensive dives to the wreck, and Shahzada Dawood and Suleman Dawood, a father and son from Pakistan who are prominent businessmen and philanthropists.
The US Coast Guard, the Canadian Armed Forces and several private vessels are involved in the search and rescue efforts, which have been hampered by rough weather and poor visibility. A Canadian aircraft detected “underwater noises” in the area where the submersible went missing, but it is unclear if they are related to the Titan or not. The submersible has enough oxygen for five days, but it is unknown if it has suffered any damage or malfunction.
The Titan is an experimental vessel that has not been approved by any regulatory body. It uses a wireless gamepad to control its movements and has no radar or GPS navigation system. It relies on a single button that functions like an elevator to descend or ascend. OceanGate claims that the submersible has exceeded industry standards for safety and has made two successful dives to the Titanic before.
The Titanic sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg, killing more than 1,500 people. It lies at a depth of about 12,500 feet (3,800 meters) and is considered a protected site under an international agreement. OceanGate charges $125,000 per person for an eight-day expedition to the wreck, which includes one dive to the Titanic. The company says its mission is to raise awareness and preserve the historic site.