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21st Jun 2023

Sound signals suggest Titanic sub could be at surface, expert says

Charlie Herbert

He said his ‘confidence went up by an order of magnitude’ when he heard that sounds had been detected

An expert has said that sound signals detected from the search area of the missing Titanic tourist submersible could be a sign that the vessel is near or at the surface.

A massive search and rescue operation is being carried out in the mid-Atlantic after the OceanGate tourist vessel, the Titan, went missing during a dive to the shipwreck with five people aboard.

British billionaire Hamish Harding is on the submersible, along with French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, the founder of OceanGate, Stockton Rush, and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman.

The trip, which is thought to cost £195,000 per head, launched at 4am, but communications disappeared one hour and 45 minutes into 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.

On Wednesday morning, noises were detected by the US Coast Guard that is believed to be banging from the sub.

Submarine search and rescue expert Frank Owen has since said that the reports of banging being detected by sound detectors suggests the vessel could be near the surface, adding that his “confidence went up by an order of magnitude” when he heard the reports.

He told the BBC: “Firstly, on board this craft is a retired French navy diver. He would know the protocol for trying to alert searching forces… on the hour and the half hour you bang like hell for three minutes.”

He explained: “Below about 180 metres, the water temperature drops very rapidly.

“That creates a layer that the [sonar signal] bounces off. But if you’re in the same depth water it tends to go quite straight.”

In a statement regarding the sounds, the maritime search and rescue operation said: “Canadian P-3 aircraft detected underwater noises in the search area. As a result, ROV (remote operating vehicles) operations were relocated in an attempt to explore the origin of the noises.

“Those ROV searches have yielded negative results but continue.

“Additionally, the data from the P-3 aircraft has been shared with our U.S. Navy experts for further analysis which will be considered in future search plans.”

The Explorers’ Club, of which Mr Harding is a founding member, also shared an upbeat message on Wednesday morning.

President Richard Garriot de Cayeux said in a statement: “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.”

Even if Titan does manage to make it to the surface though, it will be very difficult to spot due to only a small amount of the vessel sitting above the surface.

The sub passenger will also not be able to release themselves from the craft without outside help, as the vessel’s hatch was bolted on from the outside when they set off.

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