June 22, 2023 -The search for a missing submersible with five people aboard took a bleak turn Thursday when the U.S. Coast Guard said a debris field was found at the bottom of the ocean near the Titanic, and the critical 96-hour mark passed when breathable air could have run out.
The Coast Guard’s post on Twitter did not say whether officials believe the debris is connected to the Titan, which was on an expedition to view the wreckage of the Titanic. It said the debris was discovered within the search area by a remotely operated underwater robot, and was being evaluated.
The Titan was estimated to have about a four-day supply of breathable air when it launched Sunday morning in the North Atlantic — but experts have emphasized that was an imprecise approximation to begin with and could be extended if passengers have taken measures to conserve breathable air. And it’s not known if they survived since the sub’s disappearance.
Rescuers have rushed ships, planes and other equipment to the site of the disappearance. On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard said an undersea robot sent by a Canadian ship had reached the sea floor, while a French research institute said a deep-diving robot with cameras, lights and arms also joined the operation.
Authorities have been hoping underwater sounds might help narrow their search, whose coverage area has been expanded to thousands of miles — twice the size of Connecticut and in waters 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) deep. Coast Guard officials said underwater noises were detected in the search area Tuesday and Wednesday.