Titanic sub rescue chances ‘slim’ as no vessel yet deployed that can reach it

Rescuers searching for a manned submersible which went missing on a dive to the wreckage of the Titanic have admitted the chances of finding those trapped inside are “really slim”, a retired submarine commander has claimed. US Navy Captain David Marquet said if the vessel is found the next step is to bring it up to the surface and open it up so the people inside can get out.

He added: “What you need to be doing is getting whatever ship has the ability to drop that cable and then connect it to the lost submarine to bring it back up.

“You need to be doing that now so when you find it you’re not starting fresh – ‘Oh hey, look around, see if we can find a ship that’s got a cable’. 

“So to me, I’m a little concerned. It almost sounds to me like they’ve kind of admitted the chances are really, really slim on this. So slim it’s probably not even worth moving to the next step.”

Search efforts for the submersible which went missing during a dive to the Titanic’s wreckage off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, on Sunday have so far “not yielded any results”, according to the US Coast Guard.

Captain Jamie Frederick of the US Coast Guard said at a press conference from Boston on Tuesday that there are other submersibles involved in the search at the scene in the North Atlantic. But their use in connecting to the Titan is limited.

Captain Marquet said: “These submersibles are designed for a different function.

“It’s either an oil industry ship or a cable laying ship so they’re designed to go to specific spot [where] they know where they’re going, they look at something.

“They maybe can manipulate a cable at the bottom and come back up.

“What we would use them for is a so-called wide area search and something like scanning with your eyes on the surface or with a radar or sonar system designed for those wide area searches – that’s what you need.

“But they’re doing the best with the tools that they have in terms of using this submersible to try and find the submarine.”

Captain Frederick told reporters the vessel has about 41 hours of breathable oxygen on board and that the search area is larger than the US state of Connecticut.

Outlining what is known so far, he said: “On Sunday, the coordination command centre in Boston received a report from the Canadian expedition vessel Polar Prince of an overdue 21 foot submarine, Titan, with five people on board.

“The Titan was attempting to dive on the wreck of the Titanic, approximately 900 miles east of Cape Cod and 400 miles south of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“Approximately one hour and 45 minutes into the scheduled dive, the Polar Prince lost all communication with the Titan, Polar Prince conducted an initial search and then requested Coast Guard assistance, the US Coast Guard in Boston assumed the responsibility of search-and-rescue mission coordinator and immediately launched search assets.”

Captain Frederick said since Sunday the Coast Guard has coordinated search efforts with the US and Canadian Coast Guard, Air National Guard aircraft and the Polar Prince, which is the Titan’s mother ship.

These had searched a combined 7,600 square miles, an area larger than the state of Connecticut.

He added: “These search efforts have focused on both surface, with C-130 aircraft searching by sight and with radar, and subsurface, with P-3 aircraft we’re able to drop and monitor sonar buoys. To date, those search efforts have not yielded any results.”

Captain Marquet warned that if the weather in the search area turns bad it makes the search and rescue effort 10 times harder.

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He told Sky News: “If they’re alive on the [submersible] they’re doing everything they can to extend that oxygen supply. They’re meditating, they’re napping, they’re not doing any excess movements. Someone may be banging on the hold rhythmically every 15 minutes to see if that sound could transmit.”

Captain Marquet outlined three scenarious detailing what they might do, which includes figuring out what is broken so they can get to the surface if they are on the ocean floor.

He said they could use transmitters or bang on the hold to generate noise to attract attention as well as making efforts to extend their oxygen supply by remaining calm and reducing metabolic activity.

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