The ill-fated journey of the Titan submersible

KARACHI: The past week has been riddled with grief. We were still reeling from the shock of the migrant boat capsizing in Greece which led to the death of over 500 people, including 200 Pakistanis, when yet another tragedy struck. Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman were on board the Titan submersible that went to explore the remains of the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean on June 18. However, within two hours of its descent, the vessel lost all communication with its operator. With just 96 hours of oxygen, it was a race against time to find the vessel. However, the search and rescue efforts came to a halt when debris of the Titan submersible was found and all five passengers were declared dead on June 23. Here is all that you need to know about the ill fated journey of the Titan submersible.

The Titan 

On Sunday June 18th, the 21 foot deep sea vessel submerged into the Atlantic ocean on a five day trip to explore the ruins of the Titanic. Costing a modest price of $250,000 per seat, the vessel hosted five people including the pilot. The Titan was OceanGate’s only submersible designed to be able to reach the Titanic’s wreckage. As per OceanGate, the Titan could go up to 13,123 feet while the Titanic lies 12,400 feet under the surface. The journey may have been one of a kind but was not without its risks.

The submersible was compact, with only room for the five passengers to be able to sit (not stand). The carbon fiber used to make the vessel was not a usual material used and posed risk which included imploding. Operated using Logitech controller similar to that of a PlayStation, the vessel was bolted from the outside which meant that the passengers were dependent on someone to free them from the outside and could not get out on their own.

The men onboard

With the price tag attached to the journey, it made sense that only the elite would be aboard the vessel. 

Hamish Harding was the chairman of Action Aviation, an aviation sales and consulting company. Known to be an explorer, Harding broke The Guinness world records for the longest duration at a full ocean depth by a crewed vessel and the longest distance traveled along the deepest part of the ocean.

Shahzada Dawood and Suleman Dawood were from one of the richest families in Pakistan. Shahzada served as the vice chairman of Engro, a Pakistani energy investment company and the Dawood Hercules Corp, an investment and holdings firm. He was also a member of various boards, including the SETI Institute, a NASA-funded nonprofit dedicated to extraterrestrial research. His son, Suleman, was a collage student who recently completed his first year as a business major at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

Stockton Rush was a British businessman who founded OceanGate in 2009 and served as the organization’s CEO, overseeing the development of submersibles. 

Paul-Henri Nargeolet, who was known as “Mr. Titanic” for his expertise on the ship, spent 22 years in the French navy, where he was eventually ranked commander before he retired. He completed 37 dives in a submersible to the Titanic shipwreck over the course of his career, and supervised the retrieval of 5,000 of its artifacts, including a 20-ton section of the hull.

Tragedy strikes but hope looms

Authorities were alerted that something was amiss when the submersible did not resurface when it was meant to. To add to the panic was the fact that one hour and forty five minutes into the dive, it had lost contact with the operator. 

The Coast Guard was immediately alerted and a search team was deployed by Monday, Jun 20. Various aircrafts, including one with underwater sonar capability were deployed but yielded no results. By Tuesday, crews in multiple aircrafts had flown over an area of the Atlantic Ocean “roughly about the size of Connecticut” while “looking for any signs of surfacing” but there was no sign of the vessel.

A glimmer of hope surfaced when it was reported that “banging” sounds were heard at thirty minute intervals where the vessel was believed to be. As the search expanded and investigations into the sounds were carried out, the search and rescue teams were hard pressed on time with the oxygen supply for the passengers being limited.

By Thursday, the oxygen supply had run out and there was still no sign of the vessel. Later in the day, it was revealed that a debris field was located by a remote-controlled underwater search vehicle (ROV) near the wreck of the Titanic. It was later reported that debris was consistent with the structure of the Titan submersible.

Bidding farewell

By Friday, all five passengers aboard the Titan submersible were declared dead. Reports suggest that the vessel had imploded sometime during its descent. 

Tributes began pouring in for the five men aboard the Titan and an investigation will be underway. However, locating the bodies may not be possible considering the lack of technology to be able to reach the depths of the ocean that the submersible was traveling to.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the passengers.

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