French deepsea diving robot arrives near Titanic wreck

World News
2023-06-22 | 05:51
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French deepsea diving robot arrives near Titanic wreck
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French deepsea diving robot arrives near Titanic wreck

A French research ship equipped with an unmanned robot able to search deep under water arrived near the wreck of the Titanic on Thursday to join a massive search and rescue operation for a missing submersible.

With just hours of oxygen believed to be left for the five people onboard the submersible Titan, the Atalante ship arrived around two kilometres (1.2 miles) south of the Titanic wreck after 0800 GMT, according to the MarineTraffic website.

It was moving west in the North Atlantic at a speed of five knots as of 0900 GMT, the ship tracking website said.

The French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), which operates the ship, had earlier said that the Atalante would arrive at 0800 GMT after being urgently dispatched from France on Tuesday.

The ship carries the Victor 6000, a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) capable of descending to a depth of 6,000 metres.

The Titanic wreck sits at a depth of around 3,800 metres, making it particularly difficult to reach.

The Titan tourist submersible began its descent towards the wreck on Sunday morning, losing contact with its support ship on the surface two hours later.

It was carrying British billionaire Hamish Harding, Pakistani tycoon Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, the CEO of the company OceanGate Expeditions Stockton Rush, and French submarine operator Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

Based on the sub's capacity to hold up to 96 hours of emergency air, rescuers estimate that the passengers may run out of oxygen on Thursday.

Rescue efforts have focused on trying to figure out the source of underwater noises detected late Sunday.

Rob Larter, a marine expert at the British Antarctic Survey, told a press conference he thought the Victor 6000 was the "main hope" for an underwater rescue.

Alistair Greig, a professor of marine engineering at University College London, said the Victor 6000 has two manipulator arms which could allow it to untangle the Titan, or attach a device that could float it to the surface.

The robot also has strong lights, allowing to see through the murk at such depths.

But the experts warned that the rescuers would need to know fairly precisely where to look for Titan, which currently does not seem to be the case.

AFP
 

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