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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6:17 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Passengers will be "breathing as little as possible" to save energy, diver says

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Paul-Henri Nargeolet, director of a deep ocean research project dedicated to the Titanic, poses inside the new exhibition dedicated to the sunken ship, at 'Paris Expo', on May 31, 2013, in Paris, France.
Paul-Henri Nargeolet, director of a deep ocean research project dedicated to the Titanic, poses inside the new exhibition dedicated to the sunken ship, at 'Paris Expo', on May 31, 2013, in Paris, France. Joel Sagat/AFP/Getty Images

Paul-Henri Nargeolet, one of the five people on board the missing submersible, is an “extraordinary leader” in crisis situations, a friend and fellow diver has told CNN.

Joe MacInnis, a physician and renowned diver who has himself made two trips to the Titanic wreck, said of Nargeolet:

He’s been in all kinds of problematic situations and he’s resolved them… he’s the guy you want next to your side in this kind of situation.”

MacInnis was involved in a 1991 dive to film the Titanic wreck for an IMAX movie. He told CNN’s “Early Start” that the five stranded passengers will be “holding onto their assets — their emotional assets, their physical assets.”

“It’s cold, it’s dark, so they’ll be conserving energy,” he said. “Resting, breathing as little as possible, and trying to keep calm. That is the most important thing.”

MacInnis added that the three most concerning risks for any dive are fire, hull failure and entanglements. “These are the things that all folks who go into the deep ocean seriously worry about,” he said.

“We’re all caught in this swirl of emotions from sadness to hope, fear, uncertainty,” he said of the search. But on the revelation that banging noises were detected Tuesday, he said: “There’s some possible promise in what we’ve just heard.”

5:04 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Who's on board the missing submersible

Authorities said the Titan submersible was carrying five people when its mothership lost contact with it on Sunday, about 1 hour and 45 minutes into its descent to explore the Titanic wreckage. 

Here's what we know about the people on board:

Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French diver with decades of experience exploring the Titanic, is on the vessel, according to his family.

Nargeolet serves as the director of underwater research at RMS Titanic Inc., the company that has exclusive rights to salvage artifacts from the ship. According to his biography on the company's website, Nargeolet completed 35 dives to the wreck and supervised the recovery of 5,000 artifacts. He spent 22 years in the French Navy, where he rose to the rank of a commander, the website says. 

British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding is on the submersible, his company Action Aviation said in a social media statement.

Harding made headlines in 2019 for being part of a flight crew that broke the world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe via both poles. In 2020, he became one of the first people to dive to Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean, widely believed to be the deepest point in the world's oceans. Last year, he paid an undisclosed sum of money for one of the seats on Blue Origin's space flight. 

The family of Shahzada Dawood and his son, Sulaiman Dawood, said the two are on board. A family statement said the duo had taken the "journey to visit the remnants of the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean."

The Dawoods are a prominent Pakistani business family. Dawood Hercules Corporation, their business, is among the largest corporations in the country, with a portfolio spanning energy, petrochemicals, fertilizers, IT, food and agriculture.

OceanGate CEO and founder Stockton Rush is among the five onboard, according to a source with knowledge of the mission plan.

The company did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment about Rush being aboard. According to the company's social media posts, he has previously piloted "Titan," the missing vessel.

4:20 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

What the explorers aboard the missing submersible would expect on their trip

From CNN staff

Polar Prince, a vessel used to transport the missing submersible to the site of the Titanic wreckage before the expedition.
Polar Prince, a vessel used to transport the missing submersible to the site of the Titanic wreckage before the expedition. From Hamish Harding/Facebook

The missing submersible's trip to the wreckage of the Titanic was the final expedition of five such tours scheduled for this year, an archived version of the operator's website said.

OceanGate Expeditions said each eight-day trip is a "unique travel experience" that also helps the scientific community as "every dive also has a scientific objective," according to an archived version of the itinerary seen by CNN, which is no longer accessible on their website.

Here's an overview of the itinerary:

  • Day 1: Divers arrive at St. John's, Newfoundland, meet the expedition crew and board the ship that will take them to the Titanic wreck site. The Polar Prince was the support ship that transported the crew for this current mission.
  • Day 2: The ship continues out to the dive site in the North Atlantic Ocean. The expedition leader will go over safety information and dive logistics. The science team and content experts will also help divers prepare what they may discover on the dive.
  • Day 3-7: Diving begins depending on the sea conditions. Final dive checks take place before crew members board the five-person Titan submersible. Those not diving the first day "will be incorporated into other areas of dive ops — like driving the dingy, assisting the Expedition Manager, collecting media," the website said. For those onboard the Titan, the descent takes about two hours and crew members will assist the pilot "with coms and tracking, take notes for the science team about what you see outside of the viewport, watch a movie or eat lunch," it said. "Soon you will arrive at depth, and after some navigating across the seafloor and debris field, finally see what you’ve been waiting for: the RMS Titanic." An onboard content expert will point out key features of the wreck and animal life while exploring the wreck, it said. "Enjoy hours of exploring the wreck and debris field before making the two-hour ascent to the surface," the website said.
  • Day 8: The ship makes the 380-mile journey back to St. Johns.

Five more expeditions were planned for 2024, according to the archived version of the itinerary.

4:03 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

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

From CNN staff

From OceanGate/FILE
From OceanGate/FILE

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:

9:29 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Race for specialized deep sea and salvage equipment as search enters fourth day

From CNN staff

As the search for the missing submersible enters its fourth day, multiple agencies are racing against time to get the specialized equipment needed for their efforts.

While a lot of the search has been focused on the surface of the water, the team now has underwater search capability on scene, US Coast Guard First District Commander Rear Adm. John Mauger said Tuesday.

If search crews locate the missing submersible deep in the ocean, authorities will then face a highly complex mission to recover the craft and any survivors.

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

Here's where the search is on Day 4:

  • Joint operation: The US Coast Guard has been coordinating with the US Navy and Canadian Coast Guard since Sunday. Due to its familiarity with the site, submersible operator OceanGate is helping to set priorities, Mauger said. The US Coast Guard said a Bahamian research vessel was also conducting remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations.
  • Pipe-laying vessel: On Tuesday, the vessel Deep Energy, a 194-meter pipe-laying vessel with underwater capabilities, arrived on scene and rendezvoused with the Polar Prince, the vessel the submersible launched from at its last known position, said Capt. Jamie Frederick, with the First Coast Guard District.
  • Assets en route: Other vessels are on the way, including some privately owned crafts that are "making preparations" to help with the "very complex" search, Mauger said. The US Coast Guard said additional assets joining include several Canadian vessels such as a ship with a mobile decompression chamber and medical personnel.
  • International help: French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered the dispatch of the research ship Atalante to join the search, which is equipped with an underwater robot that can reach as deep as 4,000 meters [13,000 feet].
  • Deep ocean salvage: The US Navy is sending experts and a Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System to assist. 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." A Navy information page on the FADOSS says it can lift up to 60,000 pounds.
  • Magellan ROVs: Deep sea-mapping company Magellan, best known for its imagery of the Titanic and whose deep sea diving equipment is able to reach the depths, is trying to get involved in the search. But most of that equipment is in Europe and needs a C-17 Globemaster III military cargo jet with the ability to deliver it to Canada, Magellan's chair said.
  • US military assets: The US military is moving assets to help, according to the Coast Guard and US Transportation Command. The assets will be moved first to St. John’s in Canada and then taken to the search area. It is unclear what assets or equipment are on the flights or to whom they belong. The Pentagon has also said it is assisting.
  • From the air: Two C-130 aircraft made search and rescue flights over the area on Monday, and an Air National Guard C-130 joined efforts Tuesday, the Pentagon said. Meanwhile, Air National Guard members including a team of pararescue jumpers flew 900 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean in a HC-130J Combat King aircraft, where they deployed infrared radar, the New York Air National Guard said.
  • Recovering the sub: Ret. Navy Capt. Ray Scott "Chip" McCord said: “There’s very few assets in the world that can go down that deep." Once crews have narrowed their search, they could deploy a cargo van-sized remote-operated craft to locate the submersible," he said. The ROV is tethered to a surface ship with a 2-inch thick cable to provide power and communication. It 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. However, US military ROVs have electric motors and cameras, but do not have the capacity to lift the missing vessel, he added.  
2:00 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Expert tells CNN recovery will happen in phases if rescuers can locate the missing submersible

Rick Murcar, owner of Aquatic Adventures of Florida, described the phases of recovery that rescuers will go through if they can locate the missing submersible.

"Phase one is locate. Obviously phase two is confirm the status of the people and is a recovery possible? Phase three ... let's hope a recovery can take place," Murcar told CNN.

"That's going to be a long process," he added.

Coast Guard officials on Tuesday afternoon estimated there is "about 40 hours of breathable air left" in the submersible, which went missing Sunday on a trip to view the wreckage of the Titanic.

So far, the Coast Guard and its partners' search efforts have "not yielded any results," Capt. Jamie Frederick, with the First Coast Guard District Response Department, said Tuesday.

2:00 a.m. ET, June 21, 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.

12:55 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

Search teams should send assets "right away" after banging heard, expert says

A renowned oceanographer said Tuesday he was "hopeful" after banging sounds were heard during the search for the missing Titan submersible — and teams must not wait to "get assets there."

"My hope is that they spent a lot of time and assets trying to locate where the bangs are coming from," said David Gallo, senior adviser for strategic initiatives at RMS Titanic Inc.

"Time is of the essence because once you ... have an area where you know that the bangs are coming from ... you need to get assets there — submarines and robots — over that spot to investigate.

"You can't wait to slowly prove that there is something there. You should assume that there is something there, and move things now because time is running out."

Friend aboard: Gallo called French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, who is one of five people on board the missing vessel, his "very good friend."

He "is the kind of person that if he were in that submarine, he would think this thoroughly through and would do something like that every 30 minutes," Gallo told CNN.

"But they have to get moving, get stuff over there right away."

12:43 a.m. ET, June 21, 2023

US Coast Guard says underwater noises detected but subsequent searches "yielded negative results"

The US Coast Guard said early Wednesday that a Canadian aircraft assisting with search operations "detected underwater noises in the search area" but subsequent searches "yielded negative results."

"Canadian P-3 aircraft detected underwater noises in the search area. As a result, ROV operations were relocated in an attempt to explore the origin of the noises. Those ROV searches have yielded negative results but continue," the Coast Guard said in a tweet.
"Additionally, the data from the P-3 aircraft has been shared with our US Navy experts for further analysis which will be considered in future search plans."

Earlier, an internal US government memo said crews searching for the submersible heard banging at 30 minute intervals, and a Canadian P3 aircraft also located a white rectangular object in the water.

It is unclear whether the update from the US Coast Guard relates to the same event.