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Search for the missing submersible in the North Atlantic intensifies


More ships are racing out into the North Atlantic where a submersible with five people aboard went missing after beginning a dive to the wreck of the Titanic. Surveillance planes have been reporting some underwater noises, but officials say they don't know if they're from the sub. CBC reporter Ryan Cooke is covering the search from St. John's in Newfoundland, Canada. Ryan, many of these rescuers are setting right off from St. John's. That's where you are. Can you describe the scene of this port that's also really the point of departure for the sub?

RYAN COOKE: Yeah, it's been incredible. It's been so hectic. I was saying earlier to our colleagues in Dublin, we've seen our fair share of nautical disasters here in St. John's and off the coast of Newfoundland, but we've never seen a response quite like this. There's been a steady drum of American aircraft landing at the airport here and transport trucks carrying piece of equipment after piece of equipment after piece of equipment down to the harbor front. And then, as you mentioned, the boats are setting off from here and heading out to the Titanic site, which is about 800 kilometers southeast of here. So it is a long ways out into the ocean, and it's taking a considerable amount of time to get that equipment out there.

But this morning, we're reporting that two new ROVs have been deployed at the scene. These are highly specialized vehicles with the ability to dive all the way down to the ocean floor at a depth of about 6,000 meters. So they should have no problem getting down to the Titanic wreck site and exploring around in hopes that they can find this thing because the clock is ticking.

MARTÍNEZ: And is that a new vessel that's joined this search? Is that something that hasn't been used before?

COOKE: Yes. So that would be the Horizon Arctic, which is an offshore supply vessel here dedicated to our offshore oil industry.

MARTÍNEZ: What other kind of vessels have been used so far?

COOKE: So we've seen several Canadian Coast Guard vessels, several Air National Guard planes, Canadian Air Force planes. We've seen a number of commercial supply vessels that have been called into action. There is a French one that just arrived this morning, also carrying an ROV. So it's really been an all-hands-on-deck approach. Anyone who was nearby at the time was called into action and are committed to remaining there until they're no longer needed.

MARTÍNEZ: Ryan, we've been on this story since Monday, and each day, the air gets lower and lower, as far as how much people think is left in the sub. How much oxygen could be left there?

COOKE: It could be gone. It could be gone. Based on the estimates that were given to us on Tuesday by the American Coast Guard, it would have expired. So it's - the situation is dire. Now, we were speaking with a hyperbaric medicine expert this morning who had said that's really just a best estimate. It could be shorter. It could be longer. And one of the striking things that he had said was if the crew went into hypothermia, it could actually be helping them right now. You've got to think, the water down there is so cold. It's near the freezing point. So they would be fighting hypothermia. But he had said if they actually go into hypothermia, that helps protect the brain, the lungs and the heart and reduce the amount of oxygen used. So he has hope that even if they go past that point, the crew still could be found alive.

MARTÍNEZ: That's CBC reporter Ryan Cooke in St. John's, Newfoundland. Ryan, thanks.

COOKE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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