Search for missing sub past critical mark for air supply

UPDATE: June 22, 2023: 8:48 a.m.: Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard said they found a debris field in the area where crews are searching for signs of the Titan.

Earlier story:

Time and oxygen may have run out for five people lost at sea on board the Titan submersible.

The sub was on its way to the Titanic shipwreck when it launched in the North Atlantic Sunday morning. At that time, it had a 96-hour supply of breathable oxygen.

According to OceanGate’s estimates, no air may be left.

But experts emphasized that’s an imprecise estimate and could be extended if passengers have conserved air. And it’s not known if they survived since the sub disappeared.

Government agencies, the U.S. and Canadian navies, and commercial deep-sea companies are combing an area that is as big as Maryland, which is about 10,000 square miles, looking for the 21-foot submersible owned by Everett-based OceanGate Expeditions.

The focus is on an area where banging noises were detected. The hope is that the sounds are coming from the five missing people trying to make themselves heard; however, the origin of the sounds is uncertain.

“With respect to the noises specifically, we don’t know what they are, to be frank with you. The P3 detected noises, that’s why they’re up there, that’s why they’re doing what they’re doing, that’s why they put sonar buoys in the water,” Jamie Frederick with the Coast Guard said at a Wednesday news conference.

During Wednesday’s briefing, the Coast Guard did not say whether the sub is believed to be operable.

Officials did clarify that an aircraft saw a rectangular object, but they don’t believe it is connected to the search and rescue effort.

We also learned that the five people on board the sub have limited food rations.

Early Thursday, a French vessel with a submersible that can reach the sea bed in that area arrived to assist in the search. The equipment onboard the craft will allow the team on the surface ship to see in real-time what is on the floor of the ocean.

The search is like finding a needle in a haystack.

“Picking out a submersible amongst the piles of whatever that are down there — iron and other parts of the ship — is gonna be very difficult,” said retired submersible pilot Don Libertore.

The area of the North Atlantic where the Titan vanished Sunday is also prone to fog and stormy conditions, making it even more difficult to conduct a search-and-rescue mission, said Donald Murphy, an oceanographer who served as chief scientist of the Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol. The passengers are also facing temperatures just above freezing, the Associated Press reported.

Oceangate confirmed to KIRO 7 that the company’s founder and CEO, Stockton Rush, is among those on board, along with British businessman Hamish Harding, French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Pakistani billionaire Shahzada Dawood and his son Sulaiman Dawood.

Read background information on each person

In an Instagram post on June 17, Harding detailed how he would be going down to the Titanic wreck with Oceangate, going on to note that this would likely “be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023″ due to wintry conditions in Newfoundland.

Coast Guard officials are saying there are two possible theories as to what happened.

One is that the submersible had an electrical or communications problem and has floated to the surface and is waiting to be found. The second is the pressure hull was compromised, causing a leak.

Simpsons writer Mike Reiss said he was on the Titan 11 months ago with his wife. We spoke to him about his experience and thoughts on the current situation. He also shared pictures of his trip.

Last year, KIRO7 talked with Rush just before a five-person crew dove into the deep sea.

“Realizing that there’s really one object in the ocean that everyone on planet Earth knows and that’s Titanic. And that makes it possible for us to do these very expensive and very complicated missions. There’s just this huge fascination,” he said.

At the time, Rush said it takes two and a half hours to get to the ship.

“You’ll see the weirdest things you’d ever see... things with two eyeballs and a gelatinous back end and stuff coming off it, but it’ll go racing by and you’ll be like, ‘What was that?’ I love sitting by the dome for that descent because you’ll see the most bizarre creatures,” said Rush.


  • The expedition was OceanGate’s third annual voyage to view the deterioration of the Titanic.
  • The submersible is different from a submarine because it can’t return to port under its own power.
  • OceanGate hired a Canadian icebreaker to take the craft and passengers to the North Atlantic wreck site.
  • The submersible was scheduled to make several dives in one expedition.
  • In a court filing, OceanGate said Titan can dive to about 13,000 feet, or nearly two and a half miles, with a comfortable safety margin.
  • The craft weighs about 20,000 pounds and is roughly the size of a minivan.
  • It can drop the ballast and simply float back to the surface.
  • In 2021, OceanGate said Titan had an unparalleled safety feature that assesses the integrity of the hull through each dive.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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