The US Coast Guard said that experts are looking for a missing submersible in the area where noises have been reported below the surface.
Although the reason of the noises in the North Atlantic was still unknown, Captain Jamie Frederick reiterated that the search for the five missing individuals aboard the Titan was still “a rescue mission” to reporters in Boston on Wednesday.
On Sunday, while its route to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada, the vessel lost contact with tour organisers while it was about 435 miles south of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
With British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding on board, the 6.7m (22ft)-long OceanGate Expeditions ship may only have 20 hours or less of oxygen left.
Shahzada Dawood, a businessman from the UK, his son Suleman Dawood, and Stockton Rush, the founder and CEO of OceanGate, are all apparently aboard the submersible along with French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.
Capt. Frederick stated during a press conference that the area under investigation was “roughly two times the size” of the US state of Connecticut. Around 5,000 square miles make up the state.
He added: “The good news is we are searching in the area where the noises were detected.”
On Titan’s dwindling oxygen levels, he said: “Oxygen is just one piece of data. There are lots of pieces of data that we need to study. But (oxygen) is not the only thing that’s important.”
According to reports, the ship had a 96-hour supply of oxygen on board.
Asked if they were still treating the passengers as alive, he added: “This is a search and rescue mission, no doubt about it”.
On Wednesday morning, the US Coast Guard reported that Canadian P-3 aircraft had discovered underwater noises.
Searchers “don’t know what they are,” according to Capt. Frederick, even though the sounds were heard on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.
He said: “Yesterday a Canadian P3 detected underwater noises in the search area.
“As a result ROV (remotely operated vehicle) operations were relocated in an attempt to explore the origin of the noises. Although the ROV searches have wielded negative results, they continue.
“The surface search is now approximately two times the size of Connecticut, and the sub-surface search is up to 2.5 miles deep, exponentially expanding the size of the search area.
“With the respect to the noises specifically, we don’t know what they are, to be frank with you, they’re P3 detected noises, that’s why they’re up there, that’s why they’re doing what they’re doing, that’s why they put sonar buoys in the water.”
He said that extra “ROVs will be there in the morning” to assist in the search, saying “we’re searching in the area where the noises were detected and we’ll continue to do so.”
According to Carl Hartsfield of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “the best people in the world” are analysing the noises.
He added: “The ocean is a very complex place, obviously human sounds, nature sounds, and it’s very difficult to discern what the sources of those noises are at times, but I can tell you that this team has multiple sensors that are in the area, they’re sending data back expeditiously to the best people in the world to analyse that data and they’re feeding the results of the analysis back to the unified team and they’re making decisions.
“There have been multiple reports of noises and every one of those noises is being analysed, tracked, looked for patterns and reported upon.”
Mr. Hartsfield continued, “Banging noises” is how people have characterised the noises.
Reporters were instructed to rule out any more probable man-made causes of the noises.
Asked if it was possible a ship in the ocean or some mammals could mimic the sound, Mr Hartsfield said: “I can tell you from my experience with acoustics, that there are sounds, biologics that sound man-made to the untrained ear, but I can assure you that the people listening to these tapes are trained.
“There are a lot of vessels in the area and they each make noise, so all of that has to be eliminated and it’s analysis over time, plus the team is searching in the right area, so if you continue to do the analysis, look for different patterns and search in he right area, you’re doing the best you can possibly do with the best people on the case.”
According to Capt. Frederick, an object discovered by an aircraft in the water during the search for Titan is not thought to be trash.
Deep water experts Magellan said they were called by OceanGate on Monday and “immediately” supplied knowledge of the site and proficiency in operating at depth in a statement posted on their website.
The company also said that, in accordance with orders to mobilise from OceanGate, it has started coordinating with US and UK agencies to relocate its support staff and specialised equipment to St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The UK-based Nato Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) team is available to provide expertise and direction to the search operation, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
However, sources claim that the search’s depths “greatly exceed” what the NSRS can safely handle.