Sensors operated by the Navy detected the likely implosion of the Titan submersible hours before the U.S. Coast Guard publicly shared that it had gone missing — a revelation that means a five-day search that sparked round-the-clock media coverage may have been futile from the start.
The Navy detected “an anomaly consistent with an implosion or explosion” in acoustic data taken from the same area where the Titan went missing, a senior Navy official told NPR in a written statement.
A second official confirmed to NPR that it had registered that acoustic data on Sunday.
“While not definitive, this information was immediately shared with the Incident Commander to assist with the ongoing search and rescue mission,” the first official said. “The decision was made to continue our mission as a search and rescue and make every effort to save the lives on board.”
It was midday Monday that the Coast Guard first tweeted that it was searching for the Titan. The 22-foot-long, Titanic-touring vessel was carrying four tourists and a pilot when it lost communication with its control ship less than two hours into its dive on Sunday, roughly 900 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.
The massive search operation involved international ships, surveillance aircraft and undersea drones. Officials and experts from the unified command consistently told reporters that the Titan’s passengers may be subsisting on emergency oxygen supplies.
When asked as late as Thursday morning whether he had hope for rescuing the sub’s passengers, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger said that “people’s will to survive” must be considered in complex search operations.
The world watched along in fascination until a remote-operated vehicle found the sub’s tail cone and other debris on the seafloor, approximately 1,600 feet from the Titanic’s bow. All five of the people aboard the vessel were declared dead.