Debris from submarine tied to Titanic washed ashore after implosion in deep water

Debris from the submersible Titan, recovered from the ocean floor near the wreck of the Titanic, is offloaded from the vessel Horizon Arctic at the Canadian Coast Guard dock in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press via AP)

Debris from the Titan submersible was washed ashore after a fatal implosion on its way to the wreck of the Titanic caught the world’s attention last week.

The return of debris to the port of St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador is a key part of the investigation into why the submersible imploded, killing all five on board. The twisted pieces of the 22-foot submersible were offloaded Wednesday at a Canadian Coast Guard dock.

The Canadian vessel Horizon Arctic was carrying a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, to search the ocean floor near the wreck of the Titanic for parts of the submarine. Pelagic Research Services, a firm with offices in Massachusetts and New York that owns the ROV, said Wednesday that it has completed operations offshore.

The Pelagic Research Services team is still on a mission and cannot comment on the ongoing Titan investigation, which involves several government agencies in the United States and Canada, said Jeff Mahoney, a company spokesman.

They have been working around the clock for ten days now, despite the physical and mental challenges of this operation, and are eager to finish the mission and return to their loved ones, Mahoney said.

Debris from the Titan was about 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) underwater and about 1,600 feet (488 meters) from the Titanic on the ocean floor, the Coast Guard said last week. The Coast Guard is conducting an investigation into why the submersible imploded during its descent on June 18. Officials announced on June 22 that the submarine had imploded and all five people on board were dead.

The Coast Guard convened a Marine Board of Investigation into the implosion. This is the highest level of investigation conducted by the Coast Guard.

One of the experts consulted by the Coast Guard during the search said that analyzing the physical material of the recovered debris could reveal important clues about what happened to the Titan. And there may be electronic data, said Carl Hartsfield of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Certainly all instruments on any ocean-going vehicle record data. Data passes. So the question is, is there any data available? And I really don’t know the answer to that question, he said on Monday.

Horizon Arctic representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Coast Guard representatives declined to comment on the investigation or the return of debris ashore Wednesday. No bodies were recovered, though Coast Guard officials said days earlier they were taking precautions in case they encountered human remains during the investigation.

Ocean Gate CEO and pilot Stockton Rush was killed in the implosion along with two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood; British adventurer Hamish Harding; and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, both involved in the investigation, also declined to comment. The National Transportation Safety Board said the Coast Guard has declared the loss of the Titan submersible a serious maritime casualty and the Coast Guard will lead the investigation.

We are unable to provide additional information at this time as the investigation is ongoing, said Liam MacDonald, a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

A spokesman for the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations maritime agency, said any investigative reports into the disaster would be under review. IMO member states can also propose changes such as tougher regulations for submarines.

Currently, the IMO has voluntary safety guidelines for tourist submarines which include requirements to be inspected, have emergency response plans and have a certified pilot on board among other requirements. Any safety proposals would likely not be considered by the IMO until its next Maritime Safety Committee starting in May 2024.

OceanGate Expeditions, the company that owned and operated the Titan, is based in the United States but the submersible was registered in the Bahamas. The OceanGate company of Everett, Washington closed when the Titan was found. Meanwhile, the Titans’ mothership, the Polar Prince, came from Canada.

The operator charged passengers $250,000 each to join the ride. The Titan’s implosion has raised questions about the safety of private undersea exploration operations. The Coast Guard also wants to use the investigations to improve the safety of submarines.

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