Billionaire Is on the Missing Titanic Tourist Sub, Stepson Says

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Getty Images

Billionaire Hamish Harding is one of the five people on board the Titan, the missing submersible that was meant to take tourists down to see the Titanic’s shipwreck. Harding’s stepson, Brian Szasz, confirmed the news with posts asking for “thoughts and prayers” on social media.

“Thoughts and prayers for my stepfather Hamish Harding as his Submarine has gone missing exploring Titanic,” Szasz wrote in a since-deleted post on Facebook. “Search and rescue mission is underway.”

Oceangate Expeditions, the operator of the submersible ship, contacted the U.S. Coast Guard in Boston on the afternoon of June 18 when the vessel was “overdue” for return, Rear Adm. John Mauger, commander of the First Coast Guard District, said in a press conference Monday afternoon.

The submersible’s last communication came 1 hour and 45 minutes into its dive, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard confirmed. It was last heard from approximately 900 miles east of Cape Cod, at a depth of 13,000 feet, the spokesperson said. Five people were on board, including one pilot and four “mission specialists,” as Oceangate Expeditions calls them, Mauger said.

“It is a remote area and is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area, but we are deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board,” Mauger said.

Harding, the chairman of global sales company Action Aviation, was sharing posts on Instagram and Twitter about his voyage over the weekend. On Sunday, he announced he was joining Oceangate Expeditions (the company operating the tours) for their RMS Titanic Mission as a mission specialist.

“Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023,” Harding wrote. “A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow. We started steaming from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada yesterday and are planning to start dive operations around 4 a.m. tomorrow morning. Until then we have a lot of preparations and briefings to do.”

Richard Garriott de Cayeux, president of The Explorers Club, where Harding was a board member, released a statement on Monday afternoon, confirming Harding was onboard the missing vessel.

“When I saw Hamish last week at the Global Exploration Summit, his excitement about this expedition was palpable. I know he was looking forward to conducting research at the site,” Garriott de Cayeux wrote. “We all join in the fervent hope that the submersible is located as quickly as possible and the crew is safe.”

The New York Times also reports that Mark Butler, the company’s managing director, confirmed Harding is on board.

On Sunday morning, the official Action Aviation Twitter account shared images of Harding on a boat.

“4am start this morning on the RMS Titanic Expedition Mission 5 with @oceangateexped,” the post reads. “The sub had a successful launch and Hamish is currently diving. Stay tuned for further updates!”

In his Instagram post, Harding wrote that the “team on the sub has a couple of legendary explorers,” including Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a highly experienced French diver who was part of the very first recovery expedition to the Titanic in 1987. Nargeolet is the director of underwater research for RMS Titanic, Inc, according to a company biography, and has completed over 35 submersible dives.

The Daily Beast was unable to independently confirm Nargeolet was onboard the missing vessel.

The Titan has a “96 hours sustainment capability” in the case of an emergency, Mauger said. It is unclear when the 96-hour countdown began, but Mauger estimated rescuers had between 70 and 96 hours to find the submersible.

“We are using that time, making the best use of every moment of that time, to locate the vessel,” he continued.

The Coast Guard has launched two C130 planes to conduct an aerial search of the water’s surface. The Canadian Coast Guard have also launched a C130 and a P8 plane, Mauger said. The New York National Guard plans to launch an additional C130 plane Monday evening, he continued.

Mauger said the search and rescue mission for the Titan is complicated because the vessel is a submersible, meaning rescuers have to scour both the surface and the water column. He said the mission to locate the vessel will be “expanding underwater” as the search continues.

Oceangate is receiving assistance from government agencies and other deep sea companies to recover the vessel.

“We are exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely,” Oceangate Expeditions, the company operating the boat, said in a statement. “Our entire focus is on the crewmembers in the submersible and their families.”

Oceangate has been making dives to the Titanic shipwreck since 2021. Visits to the site cost around $250,000 for tourists.

Before his deep sea dive with Oceangate, Harding took a rocket into space with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin mission last year. He was one of six people who took part in the fifth human mission into space aboard the New Shepard aircraft in June 2022.

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