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Titanic tourist submarine goes missing with 5 onboard, search mission launched

Pressure to find the missing vessel is growing as the submarine only has a limited amount of oxygen available for the passengers onboard

Titanic wreck
Titanic wreck | Shuttertock

June 20, 2023 12:05am

Updated: June 20, 2023 12:06am

Authorities have launched a massive search and rescue operation after a tourist submarine with five individuals onboard went missing during a visit to the Titanic’s wreck on Sunday. 

The submarine began its dive on Sunday morning. The U.S. Coast Guard said that contact with the submarine was lost about an hour and 45 minutes into the dive. However, pressure to find the missing vessel is growing as the submarine only has a limited amount of oxygen available. 

"We anticipate there is somewhere between 70 and the full 96 hours available at this point," said Rear Adm John Mauger of the U.S. Coast Guard during a press conference on Monday. 

He added that two aircraft, a submarine, and sonar buoys were being used as part of the search but the site of the wreck in the North Atlantic is so remote that it makes the operation more difficult. The Coast Guard is also working with military and civilian partners to develop a rescue plan if the vessel is located.

"It is a remote area and it is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area, but we are deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board," Mauger said. 

The tour of the Titanic’s wreck at 12,500 feet (3,800 meters) at the bottom of the ocean is operated by the company Ocean Gate. Tickets for an eight-day trip, which includes the dive to the sunken ship, cost about $250,000. The missing submarine is thought to be OceanGate’s Titan submarine, a 21-foot white submarine that can hold up to five people. 

"We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to re-establish contact with the submersible," OceanGate said in a statement, adding that their "entire focus [was] on the crewmembers in the submersible and their families."

The passengers aboard the submarine include one operator and four “mission specialists”—the term used by the company to refer to its passengers.