Searchers say Titanic sub and its crew are lost

After days of searching, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that the OceanGate submersible that went missing during a dive to the wreck of the Titanic was lost, along with its crew of five.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger said during a briefing in Boston that a remotely operated vehicle found the sub’s tail cone early today about 1,600 feet from the Titanic’s iconic bow. As the search continued, the ROV came across a second debris field that included pieces of the pressure chamber.

Mauger said the arrangement of the debris field, 400 miles off the shore of Newfoundland and 12,500 feet beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean, was consistent with a “catastrophic implosion of the vessel.” Next of kin were quickly notified, he said, and a survey of the site will continue.

“It is a difficult day for all of us,” Mauger said.


Searchers hear noises — but haven’t located Titanic sub

Searchers are continuing to hear what they describe as “banging” noises as they monitor underwater sounds for signs of an OceanGate submersible that went missing during a dive to the wreck of the Titanic.

A growing fleet of remotely operated vehicles is focusing on areas of the North Atlantic Ocean where the sounds appear to be coming from, but so far, no signs of the sub have turned up, said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jamie Frederick, a spokesman for the international search team.

“We’re searching where the noises are, and that’s all we can do,” he said today at a news briefing.

The five-person Titan submersible, built by Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate, went out of contact about an hour and 45 minutes into what was expected to be an hours-long dive on Sunday. Five crew members, including OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, were due to head down more than 12,500 feet to survey the world’s best-known shipwreck and the surrounding seafloor.


Find out what it’s like to steer a submersible

The Titan submersible that has gone missing near the wreck of the Titanic isn’t the only sub in OceanGate’s fleet: Back in 2019, the company took me down to the bottom of Puget Sound in a sub called Cyclops.

Almost four years later, it’s eerie to be keeping track of a far more dramatic dive that has put the Titan’s five crew members in mortal peril. One of those crew members is OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, who was my guide for the three-hour tour of Possession Sound, a pocket of Puget Sound not far from the company’s HQ in Everett, Wash.

At the time, OceanGate was coping with some logistical complications that forced a postponement of its first planned series of Titan dives to the Titanic, more than 12,500 feet beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean. The company was also gearing up for stress tests of Titan’s hull. (Those tests ended up identifying structural shortcomings that needed to be addressed.)

In the meantime, Rush and his team took on underwater projects that were closer to home and within the technical capabilities of Cyclops 1, the five-person submersible that was a precursor for Titan. (OceanGate also has an older sub called Antipodes, which looks a bit like the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.)

OceanGate used Cyclops that summer to take researchers to the bottom of Puget Sound for marine biology surveys conducted in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. GeekWire photographer Kevin Lisota and I were invited to ride along on a sunny day in August.


Search for OceanGate’s missing Titanic sub widens

The search for an OceanGate submersible that went out of contact during a dive to the wreck of the Titanic has widened to take in an area of the North Atlantic Ocean that’s the size of the state of Massachusetts.

Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate confirmed in an email that the company’s founder and CEO, Stockton Rush, is “aboard the submersible as a member of the crew.” Other members of the five-person crew are veteran Titanic explorer PH Nargeolet; Pakistani-born business executive Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman; and Hamish Harding, a British aviation executive and adventurer.

Rush served as the pilot of the Titan submersible for most of its dives over the past two years — but Bloomberg News cited reports claiming that Nargeolet was the pilot for the dive that began Sunday morning.

OceanGate Expeditions’ mission control ship, the Polar Prince, lost contact with the submersible about an hour and 45 minutes into Sunday’s dive. The last “ping” from Titan reportedly came from an area just above the Titanic wreck, but there’s a chance the sub drifted elsewhere in the depths.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which is leading the search, said in a tweet that 10,000 square miles of ocean — just a little less than Massachusetts’ surface area — had been surveyed as of this morning, roughly 24 hours since the search began.

Search teams are looking for signs of the sub with the aid of surface ships including the Polar Prince and the Deep Energy, plus Coast Guard C-130 planes and Canadian P-3 Aurora and P-8 Poseidon aircraft. The P-8 is equipped with an underwater sonar detection system, and sonar buoys are also being deployed in the area.

“To date, those search efforts have not yielded any results,” Coast Guard Capt. Jamie Frederick said today during a news briefing.

Frederick said remotely operated vehicles were being brought to the scene for underwater deployment as part of a “full-court press” to look for the submersible. If the sub is located, a U.S.-Canadian task force “will look at the next course of action,” including rescue attempts, he said. “This operation is our top priority right now,” Frederick said.


OceanGate loses contact with sub during Titanic dive

OceanGate’s Titan submersible has gone out of contact during one of its dives to the wreck of the Titanic, 12,500 feet beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The U.S. Coast Guard is leading the search-and-rescue operation.

The sub was built by Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate and operated by a sister company, OceanGate Expeditions. In an emailed statement, OceanGate Expeditions said it was “exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely.”

“Our entire focus is on the crew members in the submersible and their families,” the company said. “We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep-sea companies in our efforts to re-establish contact with the submersible.”

OceanGate Expeditions says a Titanic dive typically takes 10 hours, and the Titan sub has 96 hours’ worth of life support. In a series of tweets, the U.S. Coast Guard Northeast said contact was lost with the five-person crew about an hour and 45 minutes after the dive began on June 18.

The Coast Guard said C-130 airplanes and a Canadian P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft with underwater detection capabilities were taking part in the search.


Gravitational-wave sleuths look for more cosmic crashes

After three years of upgrading and waiting, due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory has officially resumed its hunt for the signatures of crashing black holes and neutron stars.

“Our LIGO teams have worked through hardship during the past two-plus years to be ready for this moment, and we are indeed ready,” Caltech physicist Albert Lazzarini, the deputy director of the LIGO Laboratory, said in a news release.

Lazzarini said the engineering tests leading up to today’s official start of Observing Run 4, or O4, have already revealed a number of candidate events that have been shared with the astronomical community.

“Most of these involve black hole binary systems, although one may include a neutron star,” he said. “The rates appear to be consistent with expectations.”

One such event, called S230518h, was detected last week. Researchers say that if they can confirm the data, the event was most likely caused by the merger of a faraway black hole and a neutron star.

The twin LIGO gravitational-wave detectors at Hanford, Wash., and Livingston, La., will be joined for O4 by the Virgo detector in Italy as well as the KAGRA observatory in Japan. Virgo is scheduled to take part in the run starting later this year. KAGRA will parallel LIGO’s observations for the next month, take a break for some upgrades, and then rejoin the run.


Experiment blazes a trail for growing stem cells in space

Space: The final frontier … for stem cells? Seattle’s Allen Institute for Cell Science says cells from its collection are going into space for the first time on a private mission to the International Space Station.

The Allen Cell Collection’s assortment of human induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPSCs, will be the focus for one of more than 20 experiments being sent into orbit on a flight organized by Texas-based Axiom Space.

Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will command the Ax-2 mission — Axiom’s second trip to the space station — and her crewmates will include Tennessee business executive John Shoffner as well as Saudi astronauts Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will loft the crew into orbit in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule for what’s expected to be a weeklong stay on the station. Liftoff is set for May 21 at 5:37 p.m. ET (2:37 p.m. PT) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The fare for each rider on last year’s Ax-1 mission was around $55 million, and although the ticket price for Ax-2 hasn’t been announced, it’s probably in a similar range.

The stem-cell study is part of a series of NASA-funded experiments led by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. This experiment is expected to break new ground when it comes to growing IPSCs in space and modifying the cells’ DNA for therapeutic purposes.

Fiction Science Club

How quantum tech could change everything everywhere

What does quantum computing have in common with the Oscar-winning movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once”? One is a mind-blowing work of fiction, while the other is an emerging frontier in computer science — but both of them deal with rearrangements of particles in superposition that don’t match our usual view of reality.

Fortunately, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has provided a guidebook to the real-life frontier, titled “Quantum Supremacy: How the Quantum Computer Revolution Will Change Everything.”

“We’re talking about the next generation of computers that are going to replace digital computers,” Kaku says in the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast. “Today, for example, we don’t use the abacus anymore in Asia. … In the future, we’ll view digital computers like we view the abacus: old-fashioned, obsolete. This is for the garbage can. That’s how the future is going to evolve.”


Icebergs ahead? This year’s Titanic trips will start early

OceanGate Expeditions, which has conducted dives to the site of the Titanic shipwreck in 2021 and 2022, says it will begin its trips a month earlier this year, in May — a schedule change that strikes a chord with history.

“May is still considered to be iceberg season in the North Atlantic where the shipwreck of the Titanic lies,” Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate Expeditions, noted in a news release. Rush is also the CEO and founder of Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate Inc., which has OceanGate Expeditions as its exploration branch.

Almost exactly 111 years ago, the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg during its first voyage, resulting in more than 1,500 deaths. The tragedy sparked one of history’s best-known tales of a disaster at sea — and also sparked interest in underwater shipwreck surveys like the ones organized by OceanGate.

Rush said he and his team were mindful of the potential hazard. “With this in mind, having a capable ship specifically designed for working in the icy Arctic regions is going to be very valuable for our extended crew of scientists, Titanic experts and mission specialists,” he said.

OceanGate Expeditions has signed a charter contract with Horizon Maritime and Miawpukek Horizon Marine Services for the use of the MV Polar Prince, which was previously operated by the Canadian Coast Guard as a light icebreaker known as the Sir Humphrey Gilbert. During most of its 64-year history, the ship cleared ice from harbors and guided other ships through ice-choked marine environments.

Cosmic Science

Dinosaur super-necks, flipped fossils and other paleo bits

Paleontologists find the darndest things — including evidence for the longest-known sauropod neck, and fossils that literally turn their assumptions upside down. Check out these fresh developments from the fossil record: