The Titanic tourist submersible missing with five people aboard is a simple and small vessel with a carpeted floor instead of seats and barely enough room inside for more than one person at a time to stretch out, according to previous passengers and promotional documents.
The Titan vessel, part of an OceanGate Expeditions tour, vanished Sunday during a mission to explore the wreckage of the Titanic.
Rescuers have less than 40 hours left to find the submersible before its oxygen supply runs out, the U.S. Coast Guard said around midday Tuesday amid an ongoing search. The company’s specs for the vessel say it’s equipped with 96 hours of oxygen.
Follow along for live coverage on the missing sub
The passengers who have been identified are OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush, British billionaire Hamish Harding, French diver Paul Henry Nargeolet, prominent Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman.
The Titan’s dimensions are 22 feet by 9.2 feet by 8.3 feet, according to a diagram of the vessel used in promotional documents. Only one of the passengers is able to fully extend their legs in the diagram, which describes the arrangement as the “typical seating configuration.”
There’s no traditional toilet aboard the vessel, which is steered with a video game controller, previous passengers have detailed.
“It’s basically a car that you drunkenly drove into the ocean,” Mike Reiss, a writer and producer who has worked on “The Simpsons” and who took the trip last year, said on his podcast.
Getting into the vessel itself was the “most dangerous part,” Reiss said. The New York-based writer said he had to scramble up a 6-foot “kitchen ladder” that was leaned against the submersible as the ladder bobbed in the waves.
Once he reached the tiny entry hatch at the top, he said he then had to “plunge blindly” about 6 feet into “total darkness.” Inside the sub, Reiss said, the environment was cool, dimly lit and quiet.
“The sub’s interior was about the same as a minivan,” Reiss said, adding that there was a carpeted floor instead of seats. He and the other passengers sprawled out on the carpet as the vessel made its descent to the bottom of the ocean.
But problems greeted the crew the moment the Titan touched down. Reiss said a “loud squawk” came over the radio, saying everything was broken, including the sonar, the computer and the lights.
Reiss said they all went back up to the surface immediately and spent the next three days on a tugboat while the Titan was repaired.
Reiss said he and the other passengers were well aware of the hazards of the rare voyage. In a recent interview with Seattle-based television station KIRO, Reiss said he had to sign a “long, long waiver that mentions possible death three times on the first page.”
Other Titan passengers have described running into challenges on their journey.
David Pogue, a CBS News correspondent, said the submersible got “lost on the sea floor for a few hours” during his trip to visit the Titanic’s resting place last year.
Pogue wasn’t in the submersible but was in a control room on a ship at the surface at the time.
He noted the submersible never lost communication with its mother ship. He said the Titan didn’t have a beacon similar to an aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter, but “such a beacon was discussed.”
“They could still send short texts to the sub, but did not know where it was. It was quiet and very tense, and they shut off the ship’s internet to prevent us from tweeting,” he tweeted Monday. The company claimed it was to keep all channels open in case of a serious emergency, Pogue said.
The Titan is designed to take five people to depths of about 13,000 feet, according to OceanGate’s website. It is made of carbon fiber and titanium and weighs about 23,000 pounds, the company said.
On its website, OceanGate said Titan is “outfitted with state-of-the-art lighting and sonar navigation systems plus internally and externally mounted 4K video and photographic equipment.”
The price of a spot on the submersible was $250,000. It was only on its third Titanic trip since OceanGate Expeditions began offering them in 2021.