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
19 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
3:06 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Why is it so hard to find the missing submersible?

As US and Canadian authorities continue search efforts overnight, it is still not clear what happened to the missing submersible, why it lost contact with crews on the surface, and where — or how deep — it might be.

Eric Fusil, a submarine expert and associate professor at the University of Adelaide, said the search is complicated by limited underwater communication methods with the submersible.

"As there is no tether between the Titan and the support surface ship, the only way to communicate or detect from the surface is through the sea water," he said.

Above the water, in open air, detecting objects like the submersible can be "instantaneous" thanks to radar and other communications across long distances, he said — but underwater, "spotlight or laser beams are absorbed within a few meters."

That means no radar or GPS is available, either, he said.

A submersible like the Titan would therefore have to rely on acoustic sound sensors and basic communication like text messages, he added.

When communications break down: When CBS correspondent David Pogue took a trip on the Titan to the Titanic wreck last year, he said the submersible was 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 more than two hours, he said.

9:10 a.m. ET, June 20, 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submersible's trip to the wreckage of the Titanic was the final expedition of five such tours scheduled for this year, an archived version of the operator's website said.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experience" that also helps the scientific community as "every dive also has a scientific objective," according to an archived version of the itinerary seen by CNN, which is no longer accessible on their website.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.

2:40 a.m. ET, June 20, 2023

Here's what we know about the passengers on the expedition

Shahzada Dawood, one of the two Pakistani nationals on board the missing Titanic-exploring submersible.
Shahzada Dawood, one of the two Pakistani nationals on board the missing Titanic-exploring submersible. ENGRO 

Though authorities haven't publicly identified any of the five passengers on board the submersible, their family, friends and companies have begun releasing information — painting a clearer picture of who was on the expedition.

Here's what we know about the crew so far:

  • Hamish Harding: The British businessman and adventurer is based in the United Arab Emirates. He owns a company called Action Aviation that buys and sells aircraft including business jets, and which confirmed he was on board the submersible on Sunday. Harding was a passenger on Blue Origin’s June 2022 space flight, and was one of the first people to travel the Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean — the deepest known point on Earth.
  • Paul-Henri Nargeolet: Harding posted on social media Saturday that diver Nargeolet was scheduled to be on Sunday's trip with him. CBC News spoke with Larry Daley, a St. John's-based diver, who also said Nargeolet was on the expedition. CNN has attempted to reach out independently to Nargeolet with no success. Nargeolet has led several expeditions to the Titanic and supervised the recovery of many artifacts from the wreck, according to the E/M Group, where Nargeolet was director of underwater research.
  • Shahzada and Sulaiman Dawood: The Pakistani businessman and his son were also on board, according to a statement released by the family on Tuesday. Shahzada is a trustee of the SETI Institute, a research organization in California, according to its website. He is also vice chairman of Dawood Hercules Corporation, part of the Dawood Group, a conglomerate of various businesses owned by the family.
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.