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Time ran out for the passengers on the Titan submersible on Thursday morning, according to estimates from officials.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the oxygen supply on the submersible which aimed to see the wreckage of the Titanic would evaporate fully at roughly 7:08 a.m. EST Thursday.
“We have to retain hope as part of what we are doing as a human community to find the explorers and bring them to safety,” Joyce Murray, Canada’s minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard said.
There were experts who cautioned against a premature determination of the exact time the oxygen would be completely depleted. Dr. Simon Boxall, who teaches oceanography at England’s University of Southampton, told NBC News, “There are so many variables. We have no idea how long they will actually last in terms of oxygen — all that we know is that it’s imminent.”
Boxall explained that the passengers on board could start to suffer hypothermia, adding that could mean “they’re using a lot less oxygen,” although that could present other dangers.
Nikolas Xiros, professor of naval architecture and marine engineering at the University of New Orleans, said it was likely the sub had lost power, warning that the temperatures inside could be at the freezing point. “If a lack of oxygen doesn’t get them, what’s going to get them is going to be hypothermia,” he told USA Today.
Meanwhile, two new vessels, the Canadian CGS Ann Harvey and the Motor Vessel Horizon Arctic, arrived at the area around where the sub went missing. Petty Officer Ryan Noel said rescuers were attempting to get “one of the newer ROVs onsite down there.”
If the rescue for the passengers is only hours too late, recriminations may follow. OceanGate Expeditions, the company responsible for the Titan, reportedly took eight hours to alert the Coast Guard that they had lost contact with the submersible on Sunday. The sub lies roughly 400 miles southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The sub had been in contact with the mothership, the Polar Prince when it started its dive at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, but lost contact at 9:45 a.m. The Daily Mail reported that the sub wasn’t reported missing to the U.S. Coast Guard until 5:40 p.m., eight hours later, and Canada’s Coast Guard wasn’t alerted until 9:13 p.m. on Sunday night.