US Coast Guard Maintains Commitment to Submarine Rescue Mission Despite Oxygen Shortage

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The United States Coast Guard reaffirmed its unwavering focus on rescuing the five-member crew of a missing submersible near the Titanic wreckage, despite concerns over the dwindling oxygen supply on Thursday.

In a critical phase of the multinational search operation, two additional unmanned submarines were deployed yesterday as the hunt for the Titan intensified. The sub is believed to be lost somewhere in the vast expanse of the North Atlantic, over two miles (nearly four kilometers) below the ocean's surface.

Initial estimates suggested that the passengers could potentially run out of emergency air by early Thursday, given the sub's capacity of holding up to 96 hours of oxygen. However, Rear Admiral John Mauger of the US Coast Guard confirmed that the rescue teams remained fully committed even as the anticipated deadline passed.

Mauger highlighted the importance of considering the passengers' will to survive, stating, "People's will to live really needs to be accounted for as well. And so we're continuing to search and proceed with rescue efforts," during an interview on NBC's Today show.

As the operation gained momentum, additional assets and experts joined the multinational response, including military aircraft from the United States and Canada, coast guard vessels, and remotely operated robots. Sonar technology detected unidentified underwater sounds, further intensifying search efforts.

One notable development came from the French research ship Atalante, which deployed an unmanned robot known as the Victor 6000 on Thursday. This highly capable robot can search depths of up to 6,000 meters (nearly 20,000 feet) underwater, making it the primary hope for an underwater rescue, as experts have acknowledged.

Moreover, the Canadian vessel Horizon Arctic also contributed to the operation by deploying a robot that has already reached the ocean floor and commenced its search, according to the Coast Guard's official Twitter account.

In addition to the ongoing search efforts, vessels carrying medical personnel and a decompression chamber are en route to the area, further emphasizing the rescue operation's comprehensive nature.

Despite the emergence of underwater sounds, their origin remains unconfirmed, leaving room for cautious optimism regarding the survival of the passengers. US Coast Guard Captain Jamie Frederick admitted, "We don't know what they are, to be frank with you. We have to remain optimistic and hopeful."

The submersible, named Titan, began its descent on Sunday at 8:00 am and was scheduled to resurface approximately seven hours later, as communicated by the US Coast Guard. However, less than two hours into its voyage to witness the Titanic, which rests more than two miles below the North Atlantic surface, the 21-foot (6.5-meter) tourist craft lost contact with its mothership.

Onboard the sub were British billionaire Hamish Harding, Pakistani tycoon Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, both holding British citizenship. OceanGate Expeditions, the company operating the sub, offers seats on the vessel for $250,000 each. The CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, Stockton Rush, and the renowned French submarine operator Paul-Henri Nargeolet, nicknamed "Mr. Titanic" due to his frequent dives to the site, were also among those on board.

The search operation has covered an extensive area of approximately 10,000 square miles (around 20,000 square kilometers) of surface water, roughly equivalent to the size of the US state of Massachusetts. Following the detection of underwater sounds by a Canadian P-3 aircraft, rescuers redirected two remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and a surface vessel equipped with sonar capability to investigate the area.

Despite the ROV searches yielding no results thus far, the data collected by the Canadian aircraft has been shared with acoustics analysis experts from the US Navy.

Contributing to the rescue efforts, the Navy dispatched a specialized winch system designed for lifting heavy objects from extreme depths, along with other equipment and personnel. Furthermore, the Pentagon deployed three C-130 aircraft and three C-17s to support the operation.

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 during its inaugural voyage from England to New York, resulting in the loss of over 1,500 lives, has intrigued maritime experts and underwater enthusiasts ever since. The discovery of the wreck in 1985 has only intensified interest in the vessel.

It is worth noting that the pressure at the depths where the submersible went missing measures 400 times that of sea level, making the rescue operation significantly challenging.

In 2018, a former director of marine operations at OceanGate Expeditions, David Lochridge, filed a lawsuit alleging his termination after raising concerns about the company's "experimental and untested design" of the submersible.

Reflecting on his personal experience, Tom Zaller, the executive behind "Titanic: The Exhibition," recalled touring the wreck 23 years ago in a similar submersible to the one now missing. Zaller emphasized the complexity and technical intricacies of sending such a small vessel over two and a half miles deep, stating, "It's just this very seemingly unsophisticated sphere." Zaller has maintained contact with Paul-Henri Nargeolet, with whom he toured the wreckage, as well as Stockton Rush before the ill-fated journey began. Expressing disbelief at the situation, Zaller remarked, "I was in that sub for 12 hours with everything working fine. They've been there for almost four days. I just can't imagine."

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