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  • Roman Krome

Titanic tourist submersible goes missing with search under way

A submersible craft used to take people to see the wreck of the Titanic has been missing in the Atlantic Ocean with its crew on board since Sunday, triggering a major search and rescue. Contact with the submersible was lost about one hour and 45 minutes into the vessel's dive, the US coast guard said. The tour firm OceanGate said it was doing everything they could to get the crew back safely.

Government agencies and deep-sea firms are helping the rescue operation. OceanGate charges $250,000 (£195,612) a seat for expeditions to the Titanic, which lies some 3,800m beneath the waves. The missing craft is OceanGate's Titan submersible, a truck-sized sub that holds five people and usually dives with a four-day supply of oxygen. OceanGate also said in a statement that its "entire focus is on the crewmembers in the submersible and their families".

The submersible usually carries a pilot, three paying guests, and what the company calls a "content expert".

The trip sets sail from St John's in Newfoundland, which is around 600km from the wreckage site. Each full dive to the wreck, including the descent and ascent, takes around eight hours. The OceanGate website lists three submersibles it owns, and only the Titan is capable of diving deep enough to reach the Titanic wreckage.

The vessel weighs 10,432 kg and, according to the website, can reach depths of up to 4,000m and has 96 hours of life support available for a crew of five.

A vessel called the Polar Prince, which is used to transport submersibles to the wreckage site, was involved in the expedition. It is said that they have been unable to contact the submersible. He added that because the passengers are sealed inside the vessel by bolts applied from the outside, "there's no way to escape, even if you rise to the surface by yourself. You cannot get out of the sub without a crew on the outside letting you out." The Titanic, which was the largest ship of its time, hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912. Of the 2,200 passengers and crew onboard, more than 1,500 died.

The Submersible now only has around 2 days' worth of oxygen left. The problem in finding the sub is the depth it is likely to be at, which most equipment of the US coast guard are unable to reach. There is also the issue that the US coast guard lacks the knowledge of the deep sea, making it difficult to localize the sub. And then there is the problem of the time restrictions. The US coast guard have limited time to find the submersible, making the entire operation still harder.

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