Saturday: Drama begins
Hamish Harding has proudly revealed he is one of five passengers to embark on an exclusive deep sea tour of the Titanic wreck in the North Atlantic.
In a post on social media, the billionaire adventurer excitedly said that ‘a weather window has just opened’ that will allow the Oceangate expedition to dive the next morning.
Along with fellow Britons – Surrey-based tycoon Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his teenage son Suleiman – Mr Harding traveled 400 miles from Newfoundland to the wreck site. Each paid £195,000 for the privilege of laying eyes on the legendary Titanic, which sank in 1912 in exchange for 1,500 lives.
They were asked to sign a waiver acknowledging that the Titan was an uncertified ‘experimental vessel’ and that the trip could result in ‘bodily injury, disability, motion trauma or death’. Despite dire warnings, Mr. Harding seems confident in the abilities of their escorts: French submarine pilot Paul-Henri Nargiolet and Oceangate chief Stockton Rush.
The Six Days of Hope and Tragedy That Changed the World by the Titanic Sub Disaster
Pictured left, British billionaire Hamish Harding. Well, Oceangate CEO Stockton Rush
Left photo, Shahzada Dawood. Well, Commander Paul-Henri Nargiolet
Suleiman Dawood is seen in this unusual photo courtesy of Engro Corporation Limited
In his post, he described them as ‘a legendary adventurer couple’ who had done more than 30 dives on the Titanic. Mr Harding signed off his last message from the mothership Polar Prince with the promise: ‘More expedition updates to follow if the weather holds!’
But just hours later the submarine lost contact, launching an unprecedented and monumental search effort with a fleet of ships at sea and sophisticated robots deployed on the seabed. The mystery will capture the attention of the world for the next four days.
Sunday: Disaster strikes
Unaware of the impending disaster, the team excitedly boarded the submersible on Sunday morning to finally launch after a short delay.
They could see the window on Titan’s dome from which they hoped to take in breathtaking views.
The men are sealed with limited food supplies as well as oxygen for 96 hours – enough for the seven-hour journey due to be resuscitated at 9pm. A final haunting image of the Titan shows it being towed by the Polar Prince into the gray choppy sea shortly before the men embark on what is to be a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ adventure.
The submersible, which is programmed to ‘ping’ every 15 minutes to indicate its position, then begins its two-hour descent towards the Titanic, which lies at a depth of 12,500 feet. But disaster struck before the shipwreck could be reached – all communications were lost in just one hour and 45 minutes.
An initial search was reportedly carried out in the area but disturbingly the US Coast Guard says it was not notified until around eight hours later at 11.40pm.
Monday: The search continues
The next morning authorities revealed that a massive sea search operation was under way to find the ‘Adieu Submersible’.
A ‘unified command’ center has been set up in Polar Prince while both US and Canadian navy ships and the US Air National Guard have scrambled. They will soon be joined by specialist aircraft – including the P3 Aurora and P8 Poseidon with underwater detection capabilities.
But rescuers have revealed that the sub may be stuck in a 111-year-old wreck – which would make it nearly impossible to locate without underwater robots.
A view of Titanic’s bow in the Atlantic Ocean created using deep-sea mapping, in this capture from a digital scan released by Atlantic/Magellan on Thursday, May 18, 2023.
In this photo released by Action Aviation, the submarine Titan is prepared to dive into a remote area of the Atlantic Ocean on the Titanic expedition on Sunday, June 18, 2023.
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mager acknowledged that they do not have the ability to search the ocean floor. He said multiple assets including three ROVs – remotely operated vehicles – are being procured
Tuesday: Fear of Oxygen
The following morning the Bahamian research vessel Deep Energy arrived on scene and was able to begin critical ROV operations. At 7 p.m., the Coast Guard held a press conference across the globe from Boston where they revealed that the passengers had only 40 hours of oxygen left.
After more than 48 hours of intensive searching over 10,000 square miles, passengers’ hopes began to fade as there was no sign of the missing Saab.
So far France has deployed the research vessel Atalante and its advanced ROV – the Victor 6000 – which can dive to 20,000 feet.
The key to Operation Beat is not due until Wednesday night.
An encouraging development is emerging behind the scenes. Canadian aircraft circling the area detected ‘banging noises’ at regular 30-minute intervals and believed to be from an area close to Titan’s last known location.
The recordings have been handed over to US Navy experts for analysis while search efforts are redeployed to find the source of the sounds.
Wednesday: Hopes rise
More aircraft in the area heard the ‘bang’ again four hours later and the next day on Wednesday.
Kathleen Cosnett, Mr Harding’s cousin, said the detection of the noise gave her hope that the crew was signaling the hull for help.
Mr Daoud’s sister Sabrina said the family was distressed and fully focused on rescuing the nephew.
In this US Coast Guard handout, a Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina HC-130 Hercules aircraft flies over the French research vessel, L’Atalante, about 900 miles east of Cape Cod during its search for the 21-foot submersible, Titan. , June 21, 2023 over the Atlantic Ocean
The wreck was discovered by Odysseus 6K, a remotely operated submarine deployed by Horizon Arctic. The ROV can dive up to 20,000 feet
As far back as 2018, scathing documents emerged revealing security concerns about Oceangate from Titan were raised by former employees and industry experts. OceanGate has previously said that requiring security certification delays innovation.
An open letter signed by 38 industry experts warned that the uncontrolled ‘experimental’ vessel was headed for disaster and required proper testing.
Meanwhile, more vessels arrived on the scene to assist in the search, including the Canadian Coast Guard’s John Cabot, a sonar-capable ship, and the commercial craft Scandi Vinland and Atlantic Marlin.
As of now, the search field is increasingly expanding due to changing climates. The Coast Guard has five surface vessels twice the size of Connecticut searching the area.
At 7pm the US Coast Guard held a second press conference where they admitted they had struggled to find the origin of the ‘Banging Sound’.
Captain James Frederick said initial analysis proved ‘inconclusive’, but search efforts – including gold buoys – were focusing on where the sounds were coming from. On Wednesday afternoon, a Hercules aircraft conducted a search at a range of 879 miles.
Yesterday: tragic end
Hours later Atalant finally brought in the Victor 6000 which entered first thing Thursday morning. It has lights, cameras and mechanical arms capable of cutting or removing debris.
The Canadian-flagged vessel Horizon Arctic deployed an ROV supplied by the US Navy.
By now Titan’s oxygen supply is dangerously low and will run out at 2 p.m.
But Rear Admiral Mager says it’s still a rescue mission with a robot under the sea.
A mobile decompression chamber is on standby in hopes that the Titanic’s explorers have a fighting chance.
But then the US Coast Guard made a disturbing announcement that dashed all hope.
In a tweet posted just before 6pm, rescuers announced the devastating news that robotic devices had found a ‘breakdown’ near the Titanic.
David Mearns, a salvage expert who knows two of the five people aboard, said that while two critical parts of the system have been identified, the hull has yet to be found.
Mr Mearns told Sky News: ‘They don’t use phrases like “wasteland” unless there is no chance of recovery of the living men.’
He says the only saving grace was that the deaths would have been ‘instantaneous – literally in milliseconds’ and they would not have known what had happened.
Coastguards are set to explain the gruesome discovery that is expected to end the extraordinary four-day search.
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