Washington, Jun 20 (EFE).- A vessel with the ability to operate underwater drones, along with several US Coast Guard and Canadian armed forces aircraft equipped with high technology, are participating in the against-the-clock operation to locate the missing tourist mini-submarine that disappeared in the North Atlantic Ocean with five people on board who were diving down to view the wreck of the Titanic.
“We’ve established a unified command with the United States Navy, with the Canadian armed forces, with the Canadian Coast Guard and with the private operator OceanGate Expeditions to make sure that we understand what’s needed and deploy all available equipment to the scene that could be used to locate this submersible, whether it’s on the surface or down beneath the surface,” US Coast Guard commander Rear Admiral John Mauger told ABC News on Tuesday.
Throughout the night, Mauger said, several aircraft flew over the search area, located some 900 miles northeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where it is presumed that the sub will be found, although it could be at a depth of up to 13,000 feet below the ocean surface.
“As we continue on with the search, we’re expanding our capabilities to be able to search under the water as well. … This is a complex case. The Coast Guard doesn’t have all the resources to be able to affect this kind of rescue, although this is an area that’s within our search zone.”
Although the list is not official, in recent hours details about the sub’s occupants have become publicly known. Among them is Hamish Harding, a British businessman and explorer, according to the general manager of Action Aviation, Mark Butler.
Harding, 58, is the president of that company and has set several Guinness world records, including spending the longest time traversing the deepest part of the ocean in a single immersion.
Before the start of the trip to descend to the Titanic wreck, the explorer himself discussed the project on several of his social network accounts, and posted on Instagram photos of the mini-sub and of himself signing a flag for the mission.
Also on board the mini-sub – the Titan, the name of the vessel belonging to OceanGate Expeditions in which the group traveled to get to the spot in the ocean over the Titanic wreck – is British-Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, according to a statement released by Engro Corporation, of which Dawood, the descendant of one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families, is vice president.
ABC News also confirmed that Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate, is on board.
Piloting the sub is Frenchman Paul-Henry Nargeolet, several people close to the man known as “Mr. Titanic,” confirmed to media outlets.
During his career, Nargeolet has headed up several expeditions to the Titanic and has supervised the recovery of a large number of artifacts from the wreck.
The US Coast Guard on Monday launched an extensive search operation with Canada’s help to locate the mini-sub. OceanGate Expeditions on Sunday reported to the authorities that contact with the sub – with five people on board – had been lost.
According to the firm, the sub has sufficient provisions and oxygen to allow the pilot and passengers to survive for four days.
On its Web page, the company is offering eight-day/seven-night trips to visit the Titanic wreck for approximately $250,000.
The remains of the Titanic, which sank after colliding with an iceberg in 1912, are located at a depth of about 12,500 feet and about 1,030 miles from the Canadian island of Newfoundland.
The Titan, towed by the vessel Polar Prince, set sail from St. John’s in Newfoundland en route for the Titanic site, according to local Canadian media.
OceanGate Expeditions is the only company having a mini-sub capable of diving to the ocean bottom to view the Titanic wreck up close.