A friend of the British billionaire missing on a trip to dive to the Titanic has said she fears his submersible is trapped on the sea bed.
Jannicke Mikkelsen, a Norwegian explorer, said she knew Hamish Harding, 58, would be ‘calm’ amid the crisis.
He is one of five people on board a submersible, which at 4am on Sunday began its descent to the resting place of the Titanic, nearly 13,000 feet below the surface.
The round trip – for which participants pay $250,000 – usually takes eight hours. But contact with the mothership was lost one hour and 45 minutes into the trip, before reaching the wreck, and rescuers are now engaged in a race against time to try and recover the submersible and its crew.
‘My biggest fear is knowing that they are trapped, without being able to get help,’ said Mikkelsen.
Jannicke Mikkelsen, a Norwegian explorer, is pictured with Hamish Harding, who she described as a mentor and friend. Harding is currently missing after attempting to reach the Titanic on a submersible
Mikkelsen on Monday night spoke to NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo
This is the last sighting of the submersible, Titan, which was launched on Sunday. It is seen in a photograph shared by Hamish Harding’s company. He and the four others on board remain unaccounted for
OceanGate Expeditions offers tours of the famous shipwreck. Tickets cost up to $250,000
Mikkelsen, a cinematographer specializing in extreme environments, said she was deeply concerned by the fact the crew missed their ascent window – their expected time to surface.
On Monday afternoon, US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger said the submersible has 96 hours of emergency oxygen on board, based on information received from the vessel operator.
‘My fear is that they didn’t make their last ascent window,’ Mikkelsen told Chris Cuomo on NewsNation.
‘They didn’t. We are starting to make worst case scenarios.’
G. Michael Harris, a Titanic expedition leader, said he knew several of those on board, and the outlook was grim.
He told Fox News’s Jesse Watters that there was oxygen on board and CO2 scrubbers, but ultimately there was no magic solution.
‘Just not feeling good about it,’ he said.
‘When we deploy it’s usually a two and a half hour drop down to the wreck site itself.
‘We go down 3,980 meters. We spiral down, a corkscrew action, about three degrees per second to land right basically in front of the bow of Titanic.
‘Once we get down there we begin our grid searches and our decay and everything that goes on with Titanic.’
Titanic expedition leader, @gmichaelharris, says more people have been to outer space than the depth of the ocean that the missing Titanic tour submarine is. He says there¿s nothing the Navy can do right now and things aren¿t looking good. pic.twitter.com/JHdSSZOe3Q
— Jesse Watters (@JesseBWatters) June 20, 2023
The US Coast Guard in Boston is now looking for the missing vessel. The wreckage of the iconic ship sits 12,500ft underwater around 370 miles from Newfoundland, Canada
The crew was diving to the ocean floor to survey the Titanic wreckage
Harding excitedly posted to social media about being on the mission before launching the submarine
Harris said the worst situation would be an implosion of the hull around 3,200 meters.
‘I don’t see anything that can happen at this point. When you are talking 6,000lbs per square inch, it is a dangerous environment.
‘More people have been to outer space than this depth of the ocean.’
He said you have to ‘do everything perfect by the book’, and it was ‘not looking good’.
Mikkelsen said Harding acted as a mentor to her, and was well aware of the risks he took.
‘Hamish is an explorer at heart and this is one of the things he wanted to explore, on his checklist,’ she said.
‘Hamish knows the risks before he starts.
‘I know that Hamish will be calm, they will work together through their checklist of options.’
Among those taking part in the expedition is billionaire Hamish Harding, CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai. He excitedly posted to social media about being there on Sunday
The mothership, MV Polar Prince, set off from Newfoundland on Saturday bound for the spot above the Titanic wreck, 370 miles away.
The submersible went into the water in the early hours of Sunday.
On board were Harding, French Navy veteran PH Nargeolet; and CEO of OceanGate, Stockton Rush. The other two passengers have not been named.
The submersible – it is not a submarine, because it is not independent and relies on a mothership – lost contact with the mothership one hour 45 minutes into its descent.
It takes two and a half hours to descend to the wreck.
Analysts believe it could have lost power, or sunk and perhaps became trapped on the wreck. Some initially suggested it perhaps surfaced and was bobbing without power, but that seems an increasingly remote possibility.
There were 96 hours of air left on the submersible as of Monday afternoon, and the U.S. Coast Guard said they are engaged in a race against time.
There are no rescue submarines in the U.S. Coast Guard that are able to reach the depths of the Titanic.
Harding holds the Guinness World Record for the longest duration spent at the bottom of the sea.
The London-born adventurer set it in 2021, after diving to the deepest place on Earth, the Mariana Trench, and traversing it for four hours and 15 minutes.
It was one of three Guinness world records he has earned.
He set another one for the longest distance, three miles, covered at the bottom of the ocean.
His first was set in 2019, for the fastest circumnavigation of the earth via North and South Poles in a Gulfstream 650ER business jet – with Mikkelsen filming the adventure.
Last year he went into space.
The father of two – who is friends with astronaut Buzz Aldrin – said recently: ‘I used to read the book of Guinness World Records regularly as a child. I always wondered how I could get into it. I did not think I could do it.
‘And I didn’t want to do something stupid – like setting a record for the number of ping-pong balls bounced in a day, or something like that.’
As the frantic search for the Titanic submersible was underway Monday, family members asked for prayers for Harding as his latest adventure went awry.
The aviator, businessman and explorer is no stranger to perilous expeditions.
Images from Ocean Gate, one of the tour companies that operates the expeditions, show the wreckage
Marine Traffic shows the Canadian Coast Guard’s Horizon Arctic and Kopit Hobson 1752 are now making their way to the wreckage and the Polar Prince, the boat used for the expedition
He told an interviewer in 2021 how his submarine, Challenger Deep, had sustained a damaged thruster during his journey to the ‘truly spectacular’ Mariana Trench, which lies seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
‘The sub has many safety features, including four days’ reserve of oxygen, water and emergency rations,’ he said.
‘The only problem is that there is no other sub that is capable of going down there to rescue you. It will take three years to build another one.
‘So, having four days of supply doesn’t make a difference really.
‘If something goes wrong, you are not coming back.’
Harding, who runs an aviation company in Dubai, also has the distinction of taking the oldest man – moon landing astronaut Aldrin, at the age of 86 – and the youngest, his 12-year-old son, to the South Pole.
‘Buzz is an old friend of mine,’ he said.
‘We had always talked about going to the South Pole together and we finally did it in 2016.’
An only child, Harding was born in Hammersmith, London, in 1964, and has degrees in natural sciences and chemical engineering from Cambridge University.
Last year, Harding was one of six astronauts to go to space on Blue Origin’s fifth human spaceflight aboard its New Shepard rocket.
And before another trip, to the North Pole two months prior to going into space, he said: ‘People, especially as they grow older, tend to give up on their dreams. When I think of something unusual, I just try to find ways to make it happen.’