The search for the Titan submersible, which had captured global attention, recently concluded with a funereal outcome. Fragments of the fateful vessel were discovered on the ocean floor near Titanic wreckage. As the multinational rescue effort transitions into a recovery mission, there are lingering questions about the incident’s circumstances: the feasibility of recovery and the potential consequences for OceanGate, the company behind the Titanic excursion.

The primary focus of the recovery mission revolves around locating debris from the Titan submersible. The Odysseus 6, a remotely-operated vehicle operated by Pelagic Research Services, has been at the forefront of the efforts. On Thursday, 22 June, the Odysseus 6 reached debris approximately 1,600 feet away from Titanic wreckage. The US Coast Guard confirmed that the discovered debris matched the characteristics of the Titan submersible’s pressure chamber, suggesting its loss during the incident. The collapse of the pressure chamber would have caused a sudden implosion of the vessel due to the extreme pressures at ocean depths.

Underwater Forensic Investigators CEO and Titanic expedition veteran Tom Maddox explained that the next step involves revisiting the debris site and searching for a trail that may lead to additional submersible fragments. The possibility of debris floating and carried by ocean currents to different locations makes the recovery effort a complicated exercise. The team aims to collect debris, mark their locations, and create a map of the debris sites to aid in the retrieval process.

Pelagic Research Services confirmed that Odysseus 6 began a second mission to the site on 23 June. The vehicle will continue searching for debris and mapping out its locations. However, due to the weight of the submersible debris, Pelagic’s remotely-operated vehicle may require assistance. Deep Energy, another company involved in the mission, will employ rigged cabling to aid in lifting the destroyed vessel’s pieces.

As the recovery mission progresses, concerns have emerged regarding the feasibility of recovering the bodies or the submersible itself. Rear Admiral John Mauger of the US Coast Guard emphasised the challenging and unforgiving environment in the deep ocean near the Titanic wreck. The immense pressure at such depths raises uncertainties about the recoverability of any remains. Aileen Marty, a disaster medicine expert at Florida International University, explained that the implosion likely left no recoverable human remains, leaving little to find in the debris.

The exact time and location of the submersible’s implosion remain unclear. Rear Admiral Mauger acknowledged the complexity of establishing a specific timeline. The expedition commenced on 16 June from Newfoundland, Canada, with the Polar Prince serving as the support ship for the Titan submersible. Approximately 350 miles off Newfoundland’s coast, the participants embarked on their descent to the Titanic on Sunday, 18 June. The support ship remained on the surface. However, communication with the surface ceased, prompting the initiation of rescue operations.

The Titan submersible tragedy claimed the lives of five passengers: Shahzada and Suleman Dawood, a British-Pakistani businessman and his son; Hamish Harding, a British businessman; Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French diver; and Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions and the vessel pilot. The US Coast Guard has declared them presumed dead following the ‘catastrophic implosion’ of the submersible. The tragic news has elicited tributes and condolences from around the world.