Five missing tourists lost near the wreckage of the Titanic may have suffered crushing pressure on the lungs, “nitrogen narcosis” and hypothermia when the 7-meter submarine’s hull burst, experts say.
Rescue teams race against time three days after the deep-sea ship Titan disappeared.
While there are some signs that they may still be alive, it is still unknown what caused the submarine to go missing and its ultimate fate.
One scenario is a rupture in the hull while the ship was in the deep ocean, and if this should happen, experts say the chances of survival for the occupants are close to zero.
Dr. Nicolai Roterman, a deep-sea ecologist at the University of Portsmouth, said that if such an accident happened, the submarines would have died almost immediately from the pressure.
At 09:45 – one hour and 45 minutes into the dive – it lost contact with its mothership, the Polar Prince. But it was not reported missing to the U.S. Coast Guard until eight hours later at 5:40 p.m. The Canadian Coast Guard was not notified until later – 9:13 PM on Sunday night.
The Titan ship will have a carbon dioxide scrubber on board to remove excess toxic gas that builds up when passengers exhale in the confined space, but it has a limited capacity in most craft. There is also a risk of hypothermia from the low temperatures of the ocean depths, as well as hyperventilation caused by panic attacks, which can consume more valuable oxygen
The still-missing Titan ship will have a carbon dioxide scrubber on board to remove excess toxic gas that builds up when passengers exhale in the confined space, but in most vessels this will be of limited capacity
“If there were a rupture in the hull, the occupants would succumb to the ocean in an instant, given the pressure of more than 5,500 pounds per square inch exerted by the ocean at a depth of 3,800 m (12,467 ft). ‘
Professor Alistair Greig, an expert in marine engineering at University College London, simply added that if the hull was damaged in any way, the ‘prognosis is not good’.
Titan disappeared while diving to the Titanic shipwreck 12,500 feet below the surface of the water.
The deepest human freedives, deep swimming without any equipment such as scuba gear, only go down to 120 meters and are still dangerous.
Specialized equipment, such as special gas mixtures to combat the intense pressure of the ocean’s depths, have only allowed human divers to reach depths of about 1,700 feet.
Even whales that evolved to feed in the deep ocean only go to a maximum of 10,000 feet.
The deep ocean is so inhospitable partly because of the pressure.
When you stand on the surface of the earth, your body is under constant but unnoticed pressure from the surrounding air.
Scientists call this one atmosphere, which translates to about 14.7 lbs of pressure per square inch.
Once people go underwater, they have to contend with the pressure of water, much denser than air, surrounding them.
This pressure increases as you go deeper because of the weight of the water above, at a rate of one atmosphere every 33 feet.
At the depth of the Titanic wreck, the pressure will be about 380 times what people experience on the surface.
As the pressure of the water increases, any air-filled space collapses under its weight.
For submarines with hull damage, this can result in a breach, potentially injuring any occupants.
And for biological systems, such as lungs, the intense pressure can be catastrophic.
One of the participants in the expedition is billionaire Hamish Harding (pictured), CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai. He excitedly posted on social media that he was there on Sunday
French Navy veteran PH Nargeolet (left) is believed to be taking part in the expedition, along with Stockton Rush (right), CEO of the OceanGate expedition
Shahzada Dawood, 48, a UK-based board member of the Prince’s Trust charity, and his 19-year-old son Sulaiman Dawood were on the ship
Such pressure can be felt at a very basic level by swimming in the deep end of a pool, as the water pressure begins to affect the internal air in your ears.
But at extreme depths, this pressure becomes lethal.
An unprotected human being exposed to the depths the Titan intended to reach would have his lungs collapsed and his eardrums ruptured by the weight of the water.
Fluid would then pour in through the mouth to fill the space left behind, drowning the unfortunate person.
Humans can survive for about 15 minutes without oxygen, although they lose consciousness long before that, and brain damage is likely after just a few minutes without air.
If such a breakthrough happened on the Titan, the bodies of the occupants themselves are unlikely to be crushed.
The water pressure required to theoretically crush human bone is about 22 miles, about three times deeper than the deepest recorded parts of the ocean.
However, such devastating injuries can occur in diving suits containing air, which then deform under the pressure, crushing their unfortunate occupants.
But even with an air supply, another deep sea hazard will hasten the end of anyone who finds themselves in such unfortunate circumstances.
At high pressures in the deep sea, the body’s internal chemistry begins to change.
This results in nitrogen, which is part of the air we breathe, becoming more soluble, leaving a dissolved form of the gas in the blood.
Because human tissue needs oxygen, not nitrogen, this imbalance causes a condition called nitrogen narcosis, in which the body effectively suffocates from the inside out.
Even without these factors, an unprotected person would also face the prospect of rapidly developing hypothermia.
The deep ocean receives little to no light and temperatures at 12,500 feet are about 2?C (36?F).
In humans, hypothermia can occur in water as cold as 4?C (40?F), where bodily systems begin to shut down and people become tired and confused.
Several air-breathing creatures, such as whales, seals and sea turtles, have developed special adaptations to compensate for going so deep.
Some species preemptively collapse their lungs and slow down their bodily functions before diving into the depths and surviving on the oxygen left in their blood.
Others have expandable and strong internal structures to help prevent pressure from collapsing tissues.
Titan lost communication with tour operators OceanGate Expeditions on Sunday while about 700 miles south of St. John’s, Newfoundland, on a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.
Titan has five people on board, including British billionaire adventurer Hamish Harding, and one by Pakistanwealthiest men, Shahzada Dawood, and his son Suleman.
The others on board are Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman, 19, OceanGate’s CEO and founder Stockton Rush and French submarine pilot Paul-Henry Nargeolet.
If the hull is not breached and the ship is instead stranded without power, the five passengers will be in total darkness in temperatures of about 3 ?C (37 ?F) as the craft rolls along the sea floor.
Yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard estimated that the 25-foot ship had only 40 hours of oxygen left.
This gives rescuers until tomorrow morning to find the ship.
Even if the ship surfaces and drifts in the ocean currents, it is designed to only be opened from the outside, meaning the time limit remains.
OceanGate is also facing questions about why it took so long to alert authorities to the missing vessel, not raising the alarm with the Coast Guard until eight hours after the loss of contact.