Banging detected underwater in the hunt for the missing Titanic submersible is reminiscent of the failed search for MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished from radar in 2014 and prompted a massive — but unsuccessful — effort, according to a leading oceanographer.
Expert David Gallo said the “banging” noises being heard now as officials scour the vicinity of where the vessel lost radio contact Sunday are eerily similar to what oceanographers experienced when searching for the missing flight.
“When I first heard about the [submersible-search] banging, I said, ‘Oh, no, here we go again,’ ” said Gallo, a senior adviser for strategic initiatives for RMS Titanitc Inc., to CNN.
“In [the search for the] Malaysia Airlines [flight], we heard banging quite often, and it always turned out to be something different.”
In the race against the clock to try and locate the missing submersible, authorities would be focusing their resources near the noise’s source, Gallo said.
Details about the potential “banging” from the OceanGate Expeditions submersible — signaling possible signs of life aboard it — were shared in internal emails at the federal Department of Homeland Security and later confirmed by the US Coast Guard.
A Tuesday email obtained by the Explorers Club, of which one of the passengers on the missing sub is a member, noted that “tapping sounds” were detected Tuesday around 2 a.m. local time — or 4 a.m. New York time — “implying crew may be alive and signaling.”
As a result, a remotely operated underwater vehicle was placed in the vicinity of where the sounds were heard, but so far, its searches have come up empty, the Coast Guard said.
But the president of the Explorers Club, Richard Garriott, said the noises have given the group “much greater confidence” that the missing vessel will be located.
“There is cause for hope, based on data from the field — we understand that likely signs of life have been detected at the site,” Garriott said in a statement.
While it’s unclear if the “banging” sounds are in fact the missing crew, officials are confident they originated from the same area off the coast of Newfoundland where the Titan and its five-person group of undersea travelers vanished Sunday morning.
The tourist sub, carrying OceanGate Expeditions’ founder and CEO Stockton Rush, French Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, British billionaire Hamish Harding and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son — lost contact with its support ship 1 hour and 45 minutes into its voyage.
Both Nargeolet and Harding are members of the Explorers Club.
Gallo, whose company owns exclusive salvage rights at the Titanic wreck site, said making noise by “banging” was “something PH Nargeolet would certainly do.”
Nargeolet, 77, led the first expedition to the Titanic wreckage in 1987.
“One of the wonders I have is: Did [searchers] make any signal back, acoustically, to signal to the sub that we hear their signal?” Gallo asked. “Sound carries very easily through the ocean. … You would hear it in the sub for sure.”
The US Coast Guard on Tuesday afternoon said the group had less than 24 hours of breathable oxygen left.
If the crew is found safe, it would be the deepest recovery mission in history.