Lost Submarine: Hopes of rescuing the inmates are fading

The oxygen in the missing submersible "Titan" should only last a few hours. The forces had recently increased their efforts. But even with a location, a rescue could take time.

More than three days after the disappearance of the “Titanic” submersible in the Atlantic, hope for the survival of the five missing adventurers is fading. The five people on board are slowly running out of oxygen: it should only be enough for a few hours if the “Titan” is still intact at all.

The rescue squads, led by the US Coast Guard, increased their efforts again on Wednesday (local time) and concentrated on an area from which noises had previously been recorded. The sounds, registered Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, had raised hopes of finding the submersible carrying the occupants.

According to an internal memo from the US government, the noises are said to have appeared at regular intervals – but according to search coordinator Jamie Frederick, they could not initially be assigned to people: “We don’t know what it is.”

“Sometimes we can’t find what we’re looking for”

The search from the air and with ships was further intensified. A French special ship with a diving robot on board was expected on site that night. The Canadian “HMCS Glace Bay”, which has a decompression chamber and medical staff on board, was also on its way to the huge search area. Divers who have been rescued must quickly get into such a chamber to prevent permanent damage. The US Navy sent the “Fadoss” ship lifting system.

When asked, search coordinator Frederick also spoke about a possible failure of the mission in view of the closing time window. “Sometimes we don’t find what we’re looking for,” he said. Then it happens “that you have to make a difficult decision. But we’re not at that point yet,” stressed Frederick.

If that were to happen, the families of the missing would be notified long before the public. Frederick also said that it is important to remain “optimistic and hopeful”. It is still a rescue operation – not a salvage mission.

Pitch black darkness, huge water pressure

According to the operator, the 6.70 meter long “Titan” has enough oxygen to supply five people for 96 hours. But even after that, people are likely to first pass out and not die immediately, Kenneth Ledez, a professor of hyperbaric medicine, told the BBC. Even after that, there is still hope of finding the five people alive. Human bodies react very differently to a lack of oxygen.

But even if the capsule is located, a rescue could take some time. The conditions are difficult in the vicinity of the “Titanic”, almost 700 kilometers south of Newfoundland. It’s pitch black and the water pressure is huge. The forces combed an area that is almost twice the size of the US state of Connecticut, around 26,000 square kilometers, said coordinator Frederick.

Submarine specialist sees little chance

Should the submersible be found anyway, the salvage would take a lot of time. “The whole salvage process is complicated enough,” said Jürgen Weber from the Association of German Submarine Drivers in an interview with tagesschau24: “A diving robot would have to go down, attaching a steel cable to the submarine and the other end of the cable to the “FADOSS” system, this lifting system the US Navy, moors.”

According to the expert, only then can the upward winding process begin. “I fear that this time will not be long enough to survive aboard this submersible.”

Doubts about the safety of the submersible

Doubts had recently arisen about the safety of the “Titan”. This was also ensured by statements from the head of the operating company OceanGate, Stockton Rush, in a podcast by the CBS reporter David Pogue, who rode the “Titan” in 2022. “You know, at some point security is a waste,” Rush said. “I mean, if you want to be on the safe side, it’s best not to get up. Don’t get in your car. Don’t do anything.” Rush is among the missing on board.

The BBC, citing US court documents, reported that an OceanGate employee warned of potential security issues in 2018. Defects in the boat’s carbon hull could go undetected without more rigorous testing, it said.

The submersible has been missing since Sunday morning (local time). The “Titan” was with five people on board on the way to the wreck of the 1912 sunken luxury liner “Titanic”. The wreck lies at a depth of around 3800 meters. About an hour and 45 minutes after the start of the dive, contact with the mother ship “Polar Prince” was lost.

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