A search and rescue mission is underway for a submersible that was reported missing in the Atlantic Ocean while taking tourists to the submerged wreck of the Titanic on Monday.
The sub belongs to OceanGate Expeditions, a company that provides crewed submersible services for exploration, industry and research purposes. The U.S. Coast Guard is participating in the search and has reported that five people are aboard the vessel, including one crew member and four "mission specialists." An air search is underway and several ships are heading to the area to assist.
OceanGate’s expeditions to the Titanic depart from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to the wreck of the Titanic about 370 miles away. The trips take eight days and each dive to the wreck and ascent to the surface reportedly takes roughly eight hours. Passengers pay about $250,000 to participate in the trip, and the latest expedition to the Titanic is reportedly OceanGate’s fifth of the year.
OceanGate, which was founded in 2009 by Stockton Rush, has several custom-built submersibles including Titan, which was designed to reach depths of 13,123 feet necessary to visit the wreck of the Titanic, which lies at a depth of about 12,500 feet. The Titan utilizes SpaceX's Starlink satellite communications system when at sea.
The submersible is designed to surface automatically if it encounters technical problems. A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft is searching for the sub on the surface, while a P-8 Poseidon has also been dispatched from Rescue Coordination Center Halifax. The Poseidon is an aircraft that specializes in maritime patrol operations and has underwater detection capabilities it can utilize by dropping sonobuoys in a search area.
OceanGate’s website says that the Titan has life support capabilities sufficient to sustain its five-person crew for 96 hours. According to the Coast Guard, the submersible departed the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince on Sunday morning for its trip to the Titanic, and the ship lost contact with the sub after about an hour and 45 minutes. That would leave rescuers with about 72 hours left to find the sub according to reports, unless it suffered a catastrophic failure and failed to surface.
"We are exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely," OceanGate said in a statement. "Our entire focus is on the crewmembers in the submersible and their families. We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to reestablish contact with the submersible. We are working toward the safe return of the crewmembers."
Aside from its trips to the Titanic, OceanGate’s website lists several expeditions that its submersibles have conducted in recent years.
It lists expeditions in spring 2022 and fall 2023 for its "Four Subs Project" – a mission to document the wrecks of four historic submarines in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rhode Island, including one German U-boat from World War II.
OceanGate also lists expeditions to Hudson Canyon off the coast of New York City that interested tourists may inquire about.
In years past, OceanGate expeditions have occurred in the Salish Sea near Friday Harbor, Washington; the wreck of the Andrea Doria near Nantucket, Massachusetts; a wrecked steamboat in Lake Laberge in the Yukon Territory, Canada; a CIA diver lockout chamber off Catalina Island, California; and more.
FOX Business’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.