The Titanic tourist submersible that vanished on a trip to the 111-year-old shipwreck at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean is believed to have run out of oxygen — but authorities pushed ahead with the search operation Thursday morning.
OceanGate Expeditions, which operates the Titan sub and whose CEO, Stockton Rush, is aboard the missing vessel, told the Coast Guard on Sunday evening that the vehicle was equipped with only 96 hours of oxygen, with the timer running out around 7:08 a.m. Thursday.
The status of the five passengers aboard the ill-fated trip remains unclear as US and Canadian officials work around the clock to attempt to locate the missing Titan sub 900 miles east of Cape Cod.
The Coast Guard on Thursday morning confirmed that a remote-operated vehicle “has reached the sea floor” and started searching for the missing sub.
“The French vessel L’Atalante is preparing their ROV to enter the water,” it added.
Along with Rush, who served as the vessel’s pilot, the missing include British billionaire Hamish Harding, Pakistani tech and energy mogul Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Sulaiman, and famed Titanic explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet.
The US Coast Guard said it received word from OceanGate about the missing submersible eight hours after it lost contact with its mothership, the Polar Prince.
OceanGate said the sub disappeared less than two hours after it submerged Sunday afternoon.
Unlike a normal submarine, a submersible is unable to get to the bottom of the ocean and back without its mothership, with Titan depending on the Polar Prince for navigation in the depths.
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Experts agreed that the passengers stuck inside the cramped, 22-foot-long sub could’ve actually shortened their 96 hours of oxygen by panicking.
Mike Tipton, head of the extreme environments laboratory at the UK’s Portsmouth University, told Insider that humans can only go for about three minutes without oxygen.
With a dwindling air supply, people can experience restlessness, headaches, confusion, shortness of breath, blue fingertips, increased heart rate, and eventually loss of consciousness, the expert said.
More than three minutes without oxygen can lead to brain damage, and eventually death.
Along with the lack of oxygen, Tipton warned that the passengers could’ve also faced carbon dioxide poisoning inside the sub if its filtration system had been damaged or ran out of power.
The grisly outcome is among the three major fates that experts predicted would have befallen the tourist group.
Along with acknowledging that the vessel could be stuck underwater en route to the Titanic shipwreck, which lies 12,500 feet below the surface, the US Coast Guard said it was possible Titan resurfaced but lacked the means to communicate its location.
“If it’s on the surface, we’re fairly sure we’re going to be able to find it,” Coast Guard Capt. Jamie Frederick assured reporters Tuesday.
It’s unclear how long the passengers would be able to survive adrift in the ocean.
Titanic expedition leader G. Michael Harris previously told the families of the five passengers to prepare for the worst-case scenario, which he predicted was a breach in the Titan’s hull.
“Worst situation is something happened to the hull. Our fear is that it imploded at around 3,200 meters,” or 10,500 feet, Harris told Fox News.