Searchers for Titanic Tourist Sub Heard ‘Banging’ From Area, Internal Comms Reveal
A Canadian aircraft searching for the missing Titan submersible, which failed to return Sunday from an expedition to the wreckage of the Titanic, detected “banging” in 30-minute intervals coming from the area the divers disappeared, according to internal e-mail updates sent by the Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center obtained by Rolling Stone.
“RCC Halifax launched a P8, Poseidon, which has underwater detection capabilities from the air,” the DHS e-mails read. “The P8 deployed sonobuoys, which reported a contact in a position close to the distress position. The P8 heard banging sounds in the area every 30 minutes. Four hours later additional sonar was deployed and banging was still heard.” The announcement did not state what time the banging was heard, or what was thought to have caused it.
The announcement also stated that “the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre is working to find an underwater remote-operated vehicle through partner organizations to possibly assist.” Previous reports on the search for the missing submersible have stated that the Navy’s manned rescue craft can only descend about 2,000 feet underwater, and that if the divers were discovered closer to the approximate 13,000 foot depth of the Titanic wreckage, an underwater drone, or remote-operated vehicle, would be necessary to reach them.
The Boston Coast Guard declined to comment on the reported “banging” sounds, as did the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and the DHS did not respond to requests for comment.
The United States Coast Guard said in a statement on Twitter early Wednesday that a Canadian surveillance aircraft searching for the missing submersible “detected underwater noises in the search area.”
An e-mail sent Tuesday afternoon from the president of the travel and research group, the Explorers Society, stated, “It is being reported that at 2 a.m. local time on site that sonar detected potential ‘tapping sounds’ at the location, implying crew may be alive and signaling.” The Boston Coast Guard, which is leading the rescue efforts, did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the reported tapping sounds.
The mass email said that two Society members were onboard the Titan, and urged the group to contact their representatives about using remote-operated vehicles made by a private UK-based company. “A team out of the UK named Magellan has an ROV rated for 6,000 meters which is loaded on a plane and ready and waiting to help,” the email stated. “BUT THE US GOV and USCG have not yet given them permits to participate!” The Boston Coast Guard has not responded to questions about the depth grading of the ROVs currently in use in the search efforts or the proposal to use the UK company’s products.
On Tuesday evening, an e-mail update sent to DHS leadership and obtained by Rolling Stone stated that additional “acoustic feedback was heard and will assist in vectoring surface assets and also indicating continued hope of survivors.”
The e-mail added that a “white rectangular object” was located in the water, and that a research vessel “originally diverted to investigate” was “diverted to research the acoustic feedback instead.”
A commercial remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will continue its search into the evening, by rotating operators, the email read, noting that “rigging/recovery wire for possible recovery is standing by.”
More assets are scheduled to arrive “in the near future,” including a U.S. Navy underwater salvage subject matter expert, and a Canadian Navy vessel with a mobile decompression chamber and medical personnel. They will arrive at the scene no later than 10 p.m. on Wednesday, the e-mail stated.
According to the Coast Guard, the Titan lost contact with its support ship one hour and 45 minutes into Sunday’s dive. A massive search and a race against time has ensued, since the craft reportedly had just 96 hours worth of oxygen available when it began its trip.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, the Coast Guard announced that search efforts “have not yielded any results.”
A DHS official told Rolling Stone, that as of 5 hours ago the Titan still had 40 hours of oxygen left and stated that the “situation looks bleak,” adding that they believe the banging was coming from the craft.
The Titan is a 21-foot-long vehicle from the tourism company OceanGate Expeditions. It’s a “Cyclops-class” craft with a single porthole for observation, designed to take paying customers on deep-sea explorations. In a statement, OceanGate said, “Our entire focus is on the crew members in the submersible and their families,” adding, “We are exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely.”
The four passengers onboard alongside a pilot have been identified as Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman; French Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet; and Hamish Harding, chairman of Dubai-based Action Aviation. Before departing on the expedition, Harding posted on his Instagram account about the trip. “We started steaming from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, yesterday and are planning to start dive operations around 4am tomorrow morning. Until then we have a lot of preparations and briefings to do,” he wrote in the caption, and worried over whether the conditions would be right to begin the dive. He added, “More expedition updates to follow IF the weather holds!”
This article was updated at 12:02 a.m. ET on June 21, 2023 to reflect an email update sent to DHS leadership and obtained by Rolling Stone.