Titanic sub: Crews exploring undersea noises in ‘complex’ search

US Coast Guard official stresses ‘hope’ in multinational effort to find the five people on board of the missing vessel.

US Coast Guard ship
The US Coast Guard Cutter Warren Deyampert at a base in Boston, where rescuers are racing to find the missing submersible carrying five people, June 20 [Steven Senne/AP Photo]

Rescue crews looking for the submersible vessel that went missing in the northern Atlantic Ocean are moving assets and focusing their search on an area where undersea noises have been detected, a US Coast Guard official has said.

While Captain Jamie Frederick said on Wednesday that authorities still do not know what these noises may be, he stressed that there is still hope to rescue the five people on board the sub, which was exploring the wreckage of the Titanic before it lost contact with the ship monitoring it on Sunday.

“When you’re in the middle of a search and rescue case, you always have hope. That’s why we’re doing what we do,” Frederick told reporters.

He said a Canadian aircraft first detected the noises on Tuesday, and they were also heard on Wednesday.

Frederick said remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations were relocated in “an attempt to explore the origin of the noises”, adding that crews are “searching in the area where the noises were detected and will continue to do so”.

Carl Hartsfield, an expert with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who is involved in the search operation, said the undersea sounds have been described as “banging noises”, and scientists are working to figure out what they are.

“The ocean is a very complex place obviously – human sounds, nature sounds, and it’s very difficult to discern what the source of those noises are at times,” Hartsfield said.

“But I can tell you that this team has multiple sensors. They’re in the area. They’re sending data back expeditiously to the best-in-the-world people to analyse that data.”

The vessel, named Titan, is operated by the US-based company OceanGate Expeditions.

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The expedition costs $250,000 per person. Its trip starts in St John’s in the Canadian province of Newfoundland before heading out to the Titanic wreckage site hundreds of kilometres to the east, the company’s website showed.

When the surface ship reaches the Titanic site, depending on the weather, the submersible heads down to the wreck, a voyage that usually lasts about 10 hours.

The passengers on the missing vessel are: Pakistani-British businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son, Suleman; British billionaire Hamish Harding; Paul-Henri Gargeolet, a 77-year-old French explorer; and Stockton Rush, the founder and CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, which is based in the US.

At about 17:00 GMT Tuesday, Frederick said there were about 40 hours of oxygen in the vessel, so about the same time on Wednesday, there were about 16 hours left.

Frederick told reporters on Wednesday that the sub’s crew is believed to have “some limited rations” of food and water on board.

He underscored the difficulty of the search in such a vast part of the ocean, saying that the unified command overseeing the operation is bringing in more assets, including ships, aircraft and ROVs.

“We also have to factor in ever-changing weather conditions, currents and sea states that expand the search area every hour,” Frederick said. “There’s an enormous complexity associated with this case due to the location being so far offshore, and the coordination between multiple agencies and nations.”

While the US and Canada are leading the search, Frederick said there has been a “full spectrum of international assistance”, including from the UK and France.

Source: Al Jazeera