Expert on submarine lost near wreck of Titanic

There is a massive search underway in the Atlantic Ocean for a missing submarine that took tourists on a trip to view the wreckage of the Titanic. It left for the six hour trip yesterday, but never returned. And now the US. And Canadian Coast Guards are leading the search and rescue efforts. Called Titan, the sub lost contact about an hour and 45 minutes after it departed from its launch ship Sunday morning.

The company that owns the sub OceanGate says life support capabilities can last up to 96 hours for five people. The search is focused in an area about 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. In this remote part of our search and rescue responsibility, oftentimes we rely on commercial operators to be the first vessels on scene.

And so we’ve been in touch with additional commercial vessels that are operating in the area. Ocean Gate started leading tours in this past year, charging about $250,000 per person to view the Titanic wreckage, which sits about 13,000ft at the bottom of the Atlantic.

So joining me now here is Lee Cox. He’s an underwater archaeologist and president of Dolan Research Maritime archaeological firm. Lee, thanks for being here. This is such a unique problem. We want to call it not going to call it a tragedy just yet. But as an underwater archaeologist, you know exactly what these crews and the Coast Guard are all up against.

What goes through your mind when you heard this news for the first time? Well, it’s a little bit unsettling against a time clock where they have several issues they need to determine. They have to find the sub first. They have to determine whether or not there’s a mechanical issue behind it, whether or not there is communication issue behind it.

And once those things are solved, they really don’t have any way forward. At this point. We’re talking about 900 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, 13,000ft down. How bleak is that search, let alone recovery? Well, one of the concerns is the sea state conditions you have or remote location to get assets from the Navy, whoever else is going to be involved that might have the capability to recover that sub, whether or not it’s fouled within the wreck of the Titanic itself or if it’s lost.

I think one of the previous expeditions they had last summer, the vessel got lost for a couple of hours, but having no communication from the site since yesterday is disconcerting. How do you communicate, though, because, I mean, they’re in the middle of nowhere here. There’s not like there’s a cell tower. How do you communicate with something, a vessel that’s at the bottom of the Atlantic? Well, typically, these submersibles are outfitted with acoustic devices that are called pingers.

And these pingers emit a signal that would be detected by the rescuers on the surface, and they have deployed buoys around the wreck site itself to be able to detect these pingers. And unfortunately, there’s been no signal detected within the last as far as I know, since the last 24 hours. What’s your confidence level that these people will be rescued and saved?

I really hope for the best outcome. I’m just concerned that we’ve heard nothing from the site itself. And this is only a 20 1ft vessel, and it’s down 14,000ft deep, potentially. And the amount of pressure that’s on the hull of that vessel and it’s a relatively new type of vessel. So, I mean, I’m really hoping for the best. So again and I also heard that this vessel is supposed to float once there’s trouble. Right.

So they’re outfitted with ballast tanks. And the ballast tanks can be pumped full of water. That’s how they descend. And they use pumps to expel the water to rise them up, to rise the submersible back to the surface. They only have small propellers is basically they can’t travel very far forward or aft. But with these ballast tanks, that’s generally what brings them back to the surface.

Now, if it’s fouled on something and it can’t come up, that could be one issue, too. All right, Lee, we have to go. I could talk about this all night, but I appreciate your expertise on this. Lee Cox, thanks for being here to discuss this. And we’ll, of course, keep everybody posted on what happens here in the Atlantic. An incredible rescue caught on.

Leave a Comment