The U.S. Coast Guard is racing against time as it searches for a missing submarine carrying six passengers off the coast of Canada.
Arthur Loibl, a German adventurer who dived down 12,500 feet to the Atlantic wreck site of the Titanic two years ago, says the mission to find the “Titan,” the tourist vessel that vanished on Sunday, is a “suicide mission.” The Titan was uncertified to dive to the necessary depths needed to reach the Titanic, despite taking on a similar mission with Loibl.
Speaking to the German tabloid Bild, he recounted the first submarine they tried didn‘t work, the second dive had to be abandoned, and how components of the submarine fell off at its launch.
“It was a suicide mission back then!” Loibl told Bild.
On board, the Titanic were renowned French explorer Paul Henry Nargeolet, OceanGate CEO and pilot Stockton Rush, British adventurer Hamish Harding, and Pakistani nationals Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman. The 22-foot-long vessel offers no seating and only a single toilet with a black curtain for “privacy.” Loibl described the sense of euphoria he felt when at last they reached the Titanic.
Family and friends of the missing passengers are in for an agonizing 24 hours, with experts warning the “opportunity to find them alive” is fading, as oxygen supplies within the submarine are thought to be dwindling. U.S. Coast Guard Captain Jamie Frederick described the search as a “complex effort,” requiring multiple agencies with requisite expertise and equipment to complete.
Frederick said rescuers were using several methods as they comb the area for the Titan. So far, the searches have proved fruitless. An enormous pipe–laying vessel, with a remotely operated vehicle expected to be deployed at Titan‘s last known position, has joined the search.
Despite the complexity of the mission, experts remain hopeful.
Jules Jaffe, who was part of the team that found the Titanic in 1985, said there were two likely explanations for the missing submersible– either a mechanical failure or an electrical one. “I‘m hoping it‘s an electrical failure because they do have weights, one of the safety procedures that they have is to make themselves lighter,” Jaffe told reporters.
The effort was being supported by a C–130 aircraft to search by sight, as well as a P–3 aircraft for sonar buoys. However, Jamie Pringle, professor of forensic geosciences at Keele University, warns the ocean floor could make locating the vessel difficult.
“The bottom of the ocean is not flat; there are lots of hills and canyons,” he stated.
The search is a gargantuan task that will test the limits of technical know–how, with just a slight chance of success. Searchers have just one day of oxygen left to reach the Titan, and even then, only two vessels on the planet are capable of rescuing its passengers. For now, all eyes remain on the US Coast Guard and its capacity to complete a mission that Loibl knows all too well– the difficulty and danger involved in diving to one of the world’s most foreboding and complex shipwrecks.
“I feel bad, I‘m nervous, I have a sinking feeling in my stomach,” he said. “I was incredibly lucky back then.”