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22nd Jun 2023

Rescuers will only have one chance to save everyone on Titanic submarine if it found, expert says

Steve Hopkins

‘Even if they find it, there may not be enough time for the rescue because of the oxygen issue inside’

As the oxygen supply in the missing submarine reaches its final hours, an expert has said that if rescuers do find the Titan they will only have one chance to retrieve it.

British billionaire Hamish Harding, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, French navy veteran PH Nargeolet and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman are onboard the vessel where the emergency oxygen supply is expected to run out at 12.08pm UK time.

The OceanGate-owned vessel lost communication with tour operators one hour and 45 minutes into its dive on Sunday while about 435 miles south of St John’s, Newfoundland during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada. 

On Wednesday, the US Coast Guard said “underwater noises in the search area” had been detected, but by late Wednesday, at a press conference, it was stressed that the origin and exact nature of the noises remained unknown. Reports initially suggested they were “banging” noises.

US Coastguard Captain Jamie Frederick insisted on Wednesday during a press conference that there was still hope of a successful rescue, saying: “We have to remain optimistic and hopeful when we are in a search and rescue case.

“If we continue to search, potentially we could be at that point… And that’s a discussion we will have with the families long before I am going to discuss here publicly.” 

But, earlier this week, an expert earlier this week predicted the chances of the group being rescued safely was one per cent.

If the submersible is located, an expert has claimed that rescuers will “only get one chance” to retrieve it.

Fotis Pagoulatos, a naval architect, told The Wall Street Journal: “You need a ship that can lower a cable to pull the Titan up or have some kind of a claw.

“Even if they find it, there may not be enough time for the rescue because of the oxygen issue inside.

“Pulling up a vessel the size of a small bus is a complicated operation that takes time, and you only get one chance.”

The Navy said Tuesday that it is sending “subject-matter experts and a Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System, 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”.

More specialised equipment was due to arrive Thursday morning to join the search. 

On Wednesday, the Explorers’ Club, of which missing passenger Harding is a founding member, shared an upbeat message.

President Richard Garriot de Cayeux said: “There is cause for hope, that based on data from the field, we understand that likely signs of life have been detected at the site. “They precisely understand the experienced personnel and tech we can help deploy.

“We believe they are doing everything possible with all the resources they have.”

The search area is reportedly been expanded to 14,000 square miles.

The trip, which is thought to cost £195,000 per head, launched at 4am Sunday.

Communications disappeared during the descent to the wreck site – which sits about 3,800m (12,500ft) below sea level at the bottom of the ocean around 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland but in US waters.

The expedition was OceanGate’s third annual voyage to chronicle the deterioration of the iconic ocean liner that struck an iceberg and sank in 1912.

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