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Here's the latest on the missing Titan submersible and the race to rescue passengers

US Coast Gurad Captain Jamie Frederick speaks during a press conference about the search efforts for the submersible that went missing near the wreck of the Titanic in Boston, Massachusetts, on Tuesday.
Joseph Prezioso
AFP via Getty Images
US Coast Gurad Captain Jamie Frederick speaks during a press conference about the search efforts for the submersible that went missing near the wreck of the Titanic in Boston, Massachusetts, on Tuesday.

Updated June 20, 2023 at 11:27 AM ET

As of Tuesday morning, international rescue crews are still searching the North Atlantic for a submersible vessel that was taking five people to view the wreckage from the Titanic.

Authorities estimate there's only enough oxygen in the sub for those onboard to survive about two more days.

Here's what we know.

When and where did the vessel go missing?

The 21-foot vessel, which is named Titan, lost communication with its control center on Sunday morning, roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes into its scheduled dive, the U.S. Coast Guard wrote on Twitter.

Titan had been deployed by a Canadian expedition ship, the Polar Prince, about 435 miles (380 nautical miles) south of St. John's in Newfoundland, not far from the site of the iconic shipwreck.

Why was the sub diving?

The missing vessel is owned by OceanGate, a company based in Washington state that offers underwater voyages to explore the remains of the Titanic from the seafloor.

OceanGate is a major chronicler of the ship's decay and shared the first-ever-full-sized digital scan of the wreck site in May.

OceanGate is also a pioneer in the deep sea tourism economy. For $250,000 a person, the company takes adventurers on a deep sea tour lasting eight days and stretching hundreds of miles.

From St. John's in Newfoundland, Canada, explorers travel 380 miles offshore and 2.4 miles below the surface.

If successful, they can catch a glimpse of what's left of the 1912 iceberg-crash disaster, which took the lives of all but 700 of the ship's 2,200 passengers and crew. Today, the Titanic is slowly succumbing to a metal-eating bacteria, which may cause it to fully disintegrate in a matter of decades.

Mike Reiss, who joined OceanGate to glimpse the deteriorating wreck in 2022, said the trip is less tourism than it is true exploration — and the people who dare to try it are made well aware of the risks.

"You sign a massive waiver that lists one way after another that you could die on the trip," he told the BBC in an interview Tuesday. "They mention death three times on page one. So it's never far from your mind. As I was getting on to the sub, that was my thought: That this could be the end."

Who was on board?

The Titanic-touring vessel contained one pilot and four paid passengers called "mission specialists," according to the U.S. Coast Guard. "Mission specialists" take turns operating sonar equipment and performing the tasks necessary to complete a dive.

Among those paid passengers was British businessman Hamish Harding, according to a tweet from Action Aviation, a company where Harding works as chairman.

Harding holds three Guinness World Records, including the longest duration (4 hours, 15 minutes) at a full ocean depth (2.88 miles) by a crewed vessel. He has also trekked to the south pole, circumnavigated the Earthin less than 48 hours and visited space in Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket.

Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, two members of a prominent Pakistani family known for investing, were also on board the vessel, according to a statement shared with outlets such as the Associated Press.

The fourth member of the crew may be Paul Henry Nargeolet, a French expert on the Titanic, according to an Instagram post from Harding.

Titan's pilot has yet to be identified.

Why did the vessel go missing?

This 2004 photo shows the remains of a coat and boots in the mud on the sea bed near the Titanic's stern.
Institute for Exploration, Center for Archaeological Oceanography / AP
This 2004 photo shows the remains of a coat and boots in the mud on the sea bed near the Titanic's stern.

It's still unclear why the sub lost communication with its control crew on the expedition ship.

Ahead of its launch, OceanGate said it would rely on the satellite-based internet company Starlink for its communications, given the lack of GPS capability at such a low depth.

OceanGate says its vessels are "equipped with some basic emergency medical supplies and 96 hours of life support," according to a previous page on the company's website, accessed via the Wayback Machine.

And for good reason: This is not the first time an OceanGate submersible has gotten lost, according to David Pogue, a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning.

Pogue, who traveled on an OceanGate expedition to see the Titanic last summer, recalled that the control room was unable to help the submersible locate the wrecked liner for roughly three hours due to technical difficulties.

"The difference this year is that it seems like they lost contact with the ship," Pogue told NPR. "They can't even reach the sub and that's really scary."

He added that factors like bad weather and mechanical issues mean the submersible vessels rarely make it to the Titanic, despite the expensive price tag.

What's it like inside the Titan?

Videos from Pogue's initial CBS Sunday Morning report on OceanGate show him reading from the "mission specialist" waiver, which points out that Titan has not been approved or certified "by any regulatory body."

"I couldn't help noticing how many pieces of this sub seem improvised," Pogue adds.

A single plastic bottle and some Ziploc bags stand in for a toilet. An Xbox game controller and an elevator-esque up/down button serve as the vessel's primary controls. The interior lighting is from Camping World, notes OceanGate founder Stockton Rush.

In whole, the space inside is about the size of a minivan, not tall enough for someone to fully stand.

In an interview with CBS on Tuesday, Pogue said there are seven different ballast mechanisms that can help the Titan rise from great depths. The fact that rescue crews haven't spotted the vessel on the ocean's surface might mean that the Titan is snagged or its five-foot-thick carbon fiber hull was penetrated, Pogue said.

Either situation could be catastrophic for the people on board.

What's the latest on the search efforts?

At a press conference on Monday, Rear Adm. John Mauger of the U.S. Coast Guard said the search and rescue effort involved national, military and private companies, coming from both the U.S. and Canada.

Teams are using aircraft to scan the ocean as well as sonar devices to detect possible underwater sounds coming from the submersible.

In a Tuesday morning interview, Mauger said that crews have covered an area roughly the size of Connecticut. He indicated that crews were not able to detect any acoustics from Titan.

Overnight, the teams added an underwater search vessel with remotely operated vehicles in order to reach lower depths.

Crushing pressures, icy waters, a lack of light and the treacherous nature of the wreckage site itself all pose unique challenges to rescue operations if the vessel is detected at a lower depth. David Marquet, a retired U.S. Navy submarine captain, told NPR's Morning Edition that the odds of survival are "about 1 percent."

Mauger said the Coast Guard alone doesn't have all the resources it needs to perform such a complex search operation, let alone a rescue one.

Crews have been "working around the clock to bring all capabilities that we have to bear to find this submersible," Mauger said.

NPR's Juliana Kim contributed reporting.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

Corrected: June 20, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this story stated that the submersible has a 5-foot-thick carbon fiber hull. In fact, the hull is 5 inches thick.
Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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