A missing sub and navigation: What happened to the sub searching for the Titanic?

June 21, 2023  - By
OceanGate. (Credit: Screenshot of NBC news coverage)

OceanGate. (Credit: Screenshot of NBC news coverage)

On June 17, an OceanGate Expedition Titan submersible launched off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, carrying five passengers to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to explore the infamous R.M.S. Titanic shipwreck. The U.S. Coast Guard said that the submersible lost contact with the surface vessel about an hour and 45 minutes after the launch and has not been in contact since.

The submersible can support life for 96 hours. As of the afternoon of June 20, it had 40 hours of oxygen left and U.S. and Canadian agencies were still searching for it.

The Titan submersible explained

According to the OceanGate website, the Titan is “a Cyclops-class manned submersible designed to take five people to depths of 4,000 [m] (13,123 [ft]) for site survey and inspection, research and data collection, film and media production, and deep-sea testing of hardware and software.” The Titan is equipped with an inertial navigation system (INS), an ultra-short base line acoustic positioning system, a robotics laser scanner, a Teledyne 2D sonar and more.

While it is equipped with an INS, the Titan relies on messages from a surface ship to guide the submersible to the shipwreck. The submersible and surface vessel rely on Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites for communication.

A part of the Titan worth mentioning, the crew is sealed inside and bolts are applied to the outside — needing an external crew to remove them upon surfacing.


The New York Post reported, in 2022, that an OceanGate Expedition to the Titanic lost contact for more than two hours and never found the wreck.

Aboard the submersible was a CBS correspondent, David Pogue, who was filming a segment for CBS Sunday Morning. He tweeted about the incident.

The future

There are 18 planned expeditions to the Titanic with OcenGate Expeditions to survey the shipwreck, collect data, and document high-resolution images and videos.

The entire trip to the Titanic wreck site takes 8 days, and one dive can take up to 10 hours. The expedition is comprised of five legs.

About the Author: Maddie Saines

Maddie was a managing editor at GPS World.