A friend of the British tycoon trapped inside the missing submarine on the journey to the wreck of the Titanic has released the last text they received from him.
Retired NASA astronaut Colonel Terry Verts said Hamish Harding texted him and said: ‘Hey, we’re leaving tomorrow, it’s nice, the weather is bad so they’re looking forward to it.’
As rescue teams continue to search for the submersible, which holds five people, Colonel Verts added that he and his friend ‘don’t really talk about risk’.
Mr. Harding is the chairman of private plane firm Action Aviation, who said he was one of the mission experts aboard the Oceangate Expedition ship Sunday evening, about 435 miles south of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
A major search and rescue operation, led by the US Coast Guard and involving military aircraft 900 miles east of Cape Cod, continued this morning.
Colonel Terry Verts, friend of Hamish Harding, spoke to ITV’s Good Morning Britain today
Hamish Harding is trapped inside a submarine on a trip to the Titanic wreck.
This is the last sighting of the submarine Titan, which was launched on Sunday
And Colonel Verts told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today: ‘We don’t really talk about risk, that’s known. He certainly understood the risks, no doubt.
‘The last text I got was, “Hey, we’re leaving tomorrow, it’s looking good, the weather’s bad so they’re looking forward to it”.
‘He went down to the deepest part of the ocean, set a couple of world records… in the Mariana Trench [deepest part of the ocean] And we talked quite a bit about the risks and the different things that they’re going to be able to do. So he was very excited about it.’
Mr Harding holds the Guinness World Record for the longest time spent underwater.
The London-born explorer dived in a submarine into the world’s deepest point, the Mariana Trench, and crossed it in 2021 for four hours and 15 minutes.
It is one of three world records held by the 58-year-old. He set another for the longest distance covered under the sea – three miles.
His first was set for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth via the North and South Poles in 2019 on a Gulf 650ER business jet. And last year he went to space.
Speaking about the Titanic’s voyage, Colonel Verts added: ‘They’re actually going out there for a fun trip, but they’re also doing some serious science. As the wreck of the Titanic changes over the years, it begins to disintegrate.
‘And there are quite a few scientists on the mission who are actually looking at the sub-sea surface and how the Titanic is going. So it wasn’t just a fun trip, they were actually on a real quest for all of humanity.
OceanGate Expeditions is one of the companies that offers tours of the famous shipwrecks
The US Coast Guard in Boston is now searching for the missing vessel off Newfoundland
Sailors were diving to the bottom of the ocean to survey the wreckage of the Titanic
‘Titanic is important not just to Britain, but to everyone. So they are able to see how the ship is deteriorating over the years under the sea.’
The US Coast Guard said the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince and the 106 Rescue Wing would continue surface searches while it also dispatched two C-130 flights to search for the missing submersible.
Mr Harding’s cousin, Kathleen Cosnett, told The Daily Telegraph she saw Mr Harding as ‘brave’ and ‘inquisitive’ and was ‘devastated’ to learn he was missing.
On social media over the weekend, Mr Harding said he was ‘proud to finally announce’ that he would board a mission to the wreck of the Titanic, the luxury ocean liner that struck an iceberg and sank in 1912, killing more than 1,500 people.
OceanGate Expeditions said its focus was on the people on board and their families.
Harding posted on social media about being on the mission before launching the submarine
Colonel Terry Verts is a retired NASA astronaut and friend of missing Hamish Harding
‘We are deeply grateful for the extensive support we have received from several government agencies and deep sea agencies in our efforts to re-establish contact with the submersible,’ the agency said in a statement.
‘We are working to ensure the safe return of crew members.’
A court document filed by Oceangate in the US in April said the submarine, named Titan, could dive to 13,120 feet ‘with a comfortable margin of safety’.
The vessel weighs 20,000 pounds, is made of ‘titanium and filament wound carbon fiber’ and has been proven to ‘withstand the enormous pressures of the deep ocean,’ Oceangate said.
The submarine was taking part in the third annual trip to Oceangate to monitor the erosion of shipwrecks after expeditions in 2021 and 2022.
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