Tourist submarine with five on board goes missing on dive to wreck of Titanic

British explorer and French expert believed to be among those on board

A tourist submarine with some prominent maritime experts and explorers believed to be on board has gone missing in the North Atlantic while on a dive to view the wreck of the Titanic.

A search and rescue mission was under way on Monday, involving aircraft and underwater equipment, with more help on the way as concern grew after the return of submersible was “overdue”, according to the US coastguard.

A British explorer and a French military veteran and submarine expert are believed to be among those on board and the coastguard tweeted on Monday that contact was lost with the sub just one hour and 45 minutes into its dive on Sunday afternoon.

A spokesman for the Boston coastguard confirmed that “a small submarine with five persons on board had gone missing in the vicinity of the Titanic wreck”. The craft was later identified as Titan, a deep diving submersible operated by underwater tourism company OceanGate.


The submersible is best known for expensive tourist dives to the famous wreck.

Rear admiral John Mauger, first district commander of the US coastguard, overseeing the search operation, told Fox News that rescue services were notified on Sunday afternoon. Mr Mauger said that the submarine was designed to surface automatically if it ran into problems and should have 72 hours of oxygen left.

He acknowledged that finding the sub presented a “very complicated problem” and said the US military had dispatched a C-130 iceberg patrol aircraft to search the sea surface.

Canadian search and rescue had dispatched a C-130 and an Orion P-8 that can drop sonar buoys to detect underwater noises.

Mr Mauger warned that the search area was large and the search complicated by weather conditions.

Despite the wreck of the Titanic resting south-east of the coast of Newfoundland, Canadian authorities said the search efforts were under the jurisdiction of the US coastguard’s Boston fleet.

OceanGate Expeditions, the company that offers the visits to the wreck, which lies on the ocean floor in 4,000m of water about 640km off the coast of Newfoundland, has been running expeditions since 2021.

One of those believed to be on board is Paul Henry Nargeolet, a former French navy commander, a deep diver and a submersible pilot. As director of underwater research for E/M Group and RMS Titanic Inc, he is widely considered the leading authority on the wreck site and it is possible he was in charge of the submersible on the dive, with four passengers alongside.

Mr Nargeolet has led several expeditions to the Titanic site and supervised the recovery of 5,000 artefacts, including the recovery of the “big piece” a 20-ton section of Titanic’s hull.

A British businessman, Hamish Harding, a well-known aviator as well as an explorer and one of the tiny group of tourists who have already been to space, was booked on the current trip. Harding is married and Brian Szasz, a stepson, posted on Facebook about “thoughts and prayers” as “his submarine has gone missing” and then later deleted the post.

Harding (58) posted on Instagram on Saturday that: “Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023. A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow. We started steaming from St Johns yesterday and are planning to start dive operations around 4am tomorrow morning.” In a previous post he described himself as “a mission specialist” on the trip.

Polar Prince

The submersible was launched on Sunday morning from the vessel Polar Prince.

The Mi’kmaq chief Mi’sel Joe, head of the Indigenous group that owns the Polar Prince, told CBC News that another submersible was being flown in from the US to aid in the search.

The Belfast-built Titanic sank on its maiden voyage, from Britain to the US, in April 1912 after being holed by an iceberg.

The Titanic made its last stop in Cobh, Co Cork to allow Irish passengers to board.

The lives of 1,514 of the 2,224 passengers and crew were lost and the Titanic became perhaps the most famous civilian shipwreck of all time, although the wreck itself was not found until the 1980s.

OceanGate started taking small crews of “citizen scientists” in a five-person mini sub two years ago and a ticket now costs $250,000.

According to the company’s website, OceanGate had a planned eight-day, seven-night expedition to the wreck planned for June 12th-20th. A maximum of six visitors were scheduled to depart and return to St John’s, Newfoundland.

A statement on OceanGate’s website on Monday read: “Our entire focus is on the crew members 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 re-establish contact with the submersible.”

The Newfoundland and Labrador premier, Andrew Furey, tweeted that he hoped the US coastguard would find the vessel “very soon”.

Since 2021, the Bahamas-based OceanGate Expeditions has ferried about 60 paying customers and 15-20 researchers to the site. - Guardian