A tour submersible visiting the site of the Titanic wreck has disappeared, sparking a race against time to find the missing individuals onboard.
The vehicle went missing off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada on Monday, 19 June, according to the US Coast Guard.
The operator of the submersible, OceanGate Expeditions, takes paying tourists to visit the site of the infamous ocean liner.
The RMS Titanic’s final resting spot is approximately 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada in the North Atlantic Ocean. It sank in 1912, killing approximately 1,500 people on board. Its coordinates are 41º43’32”N, 49º56’49”W.
The wreckage was discovered in 1985 and named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012. Since its discovery — and thanks in part to James Cameron’s iconic film about the ship’s final hours — the ship and its fate have captured the public’s imagination.
The ship famously began to sink after it struck an iceberg just before midnight during its maiden voyage. The collision caused a dent in the ship’s submerged hull, which then caused its seams to buckle. Five of its interior compartments flooded, dooming the ship.
The ship sank for hours, but it only carried enough lifeboats to evacuate approximately half of the passengers. Shortly after 2am, the ship’s sinking accelerated as its deck dipped below the waterline. The ship’s stern rose out of the water, exposing the propeller, and then snapped in half. Its stern remained nearly vertical for several minutes before it crashed back to the waves and sunk.
Many of the passengers and crew who fell into the icy waters died within minutes due to cardiac arrest due to cold exposure or drowning.
The list of weathy and notable passengers who died on the ship helped to secure the Titanic’s place in history. Among the dead was John Jacob Astor IV, who was believed to be among the richest men in the world at the time he died. His net worth was estimated to be $87m, which would be the equivalent of $2.4bn in 2022.
The ship’s wreckage eventually settled on the ocean floor approximately 12,500 feet — or 3,800 m — below the surface.
OceanGate Expeditions’ Titan submersible is capable of extremely deep dive expeditions, and carries enough life support equipment to keep a crew of five alive for up to 96 hours, according to its website.
Despite the offerings of a chance to see the wreckage, very few people have actually taken the journey to the ship’s remains. Only 250 people have ever visited — including Mr Cameron — as an eight-day diving tour costs approximately $250,000 per guest, according to the website.
Among those on the sub is British explorer Hamish Harding, who joined the crew as a mission specialist, according to a Facebook post he made prior to leaving.
Researchers and tourists may be in a rush to visit the site, as experts believe that the quickly eroding remains may be fully lost by the year 2030. Current research at the site is barred from removing or disturbing the remains at the site.
OceanGate said its focus now is on locating the missing and returning them to their families.
“Our entire focus is on the crewmembers in the submersible and their families,” OceanGate said to CBS News.
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