A search was underway Monday off the coast of Newfoundland for a small submersible reported missing near the wreck of the Titanic.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax confirmed in an email that a research submarine was reported overdue around 9:13 p.m. Sunday, about 700 kilometres south of St. John’s, N.L.
Lt.-Cmdr. Len Hickey said an Aurora military aircraft and the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Kopit Hopson were assisting the search effort, which was being led by the U.S. Coast Guard in Boston. The U.S. Coast Guard said in a tweet that it has a C-130 Hercules aircraft involved in the search along with a P-8 Poseidon aircraft, which has underwater detection capabilities.
The chief of a Newfoundland and Labrador First Nation that is part owner of the ship from which the small submarine is launched confirmed the vessel is operated by U.S.-based OceanGate Expeditions. Vessel tracking sites show the ship, a former coast guard icebreaker called the Polar Prince, sailed from St. John’s on Friday.
Miawpukek Chief Mi’sel Joe could not say how many people were on board the submersible, which can seat up to five people.
“They are waiting for a submersible to arrive (to assist) from the United States,” he said. “All I can offer at this stage is prayers and more prayers that the people on board will come to the surface and be safe.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey tweeted that he is thinking of those affected and hopes the U.S. Coast Guard finds “the sub and those on it very soon.”
“Newfoundland and Labrador has a long-standing connection with the wreck of the Titanic, with tourists departing our harbour to visit the site off our shores,” the premier said.
In 2021, OceanGate Expeditions began what it expected to become an annual voyage to chronicle the deterioration of the ocean liner that struck an iceberg and sank in 1912, killing all but about 700 of the roughly 2,200 passengers and crew. Since the wreckage’s discovery in 1985, it has been slowly succumbing to metal-eating bacteria, and some have predicted the ship could vanish in a matter of decades.
In describing its first expedition, OceanGate said that in addition to archeologists and marine biologists, the expeditions would include roughly 40 paid tourists who would take turns operating sonar equipment and performing other tasks in the submersible.
The initial group of tourists was funding the expedition by spending anywhere from US$100,000 to US$150,000 apiece.
According to the company’s website, the tours are eight-day missions with the money raised by the fees going towards Titanic research. The submersible dives to a maximum depth of 3,800 metres, the site says.