A deep-sea expert has revealed how the Titan crew could be keeping breathing to a minimum in the dark, cold submersible to “conserve oxygen”.

Dr Nicolai Roterman, a deep-sea ecologist and lecturer in marine biology at the University of Portsmouth, described what the conditions could be like inside the underwater vessel after being lost for three days.

“It could be cold, it could be dark, and very cramped,” he told i. “And the challenge will be for them to not exert themselves in any way, shape, or form.”

He said the crew should be trying to “stay as calm as possible” and to “keep conversation to a minimum” to conserve emergency oxygen supplies.

He added that the crew should be “keeping their heart rate down and keeping their breathing constant” so they do not overuse oxygen and produce too much carbon dioxide.

“If they’re still alive at this point I’m sure they will have developed some kind of plan and they may be keeping conversation to an absolute minimum,” he told i.

A major rescue mission has been launched after the tourist vessel lost communication with the pilot ship, the Polar Prince, around one hour and 45 minutes into the dive.

Rescuers have estimated that the missing submersible has less than 24 hours of oxygen as of Wednesday morning.

Five people are on board the trip to see the Titanic wreckage, organised by deep sea exploration company OceanGate Expeditions, including British billionaire and aviation tycoon Hamish Harding, as well as UK-based billionaire, Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his son Suleman, 19.

This undated handout from the Dawood Hercules Corporation released on June 20, 2023 shows businessman Shahzada Dawood, the vice-chairman of Karachi-headquartered conglomerate Engro, and his son Suleman. Rescuers hoped on June 20, 2023 that the arrival of specialized deep-sea vessels and US Navy experts would boost desperate efforts to find the tourist submersible named Titan that went missing near the wreck of the Titanic, as oxygen for the five, including Dawood and his son Suleman, on board rapidly runs out. (Photo by Handout / DAWOOD HERCULES CORPORATION / AFP) / -----EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / DAWOOD HERCULES CORPORATION" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - NO ARCHIVES (Photo by HANDOUT/DAWOOD HERCULES CORPORATION/AFP via Getty Images)
Shahzada Dawood, the vice-chairman of Karachi-headquartered conglomerate Engro, and his son Suleman (Photo: Dawood Hercukes Corporation/Getty)

French submersible pilot Paul-Henry Nargeolet and chief executive and founder of OceanGate Expeditions, Stockton Rush, are also on board.

Dr Roterman said a successful rescue is “not impossible” but added: “Whether or not it’s probable is a different matter.

“It’s very hard to conceive of options at this point beyond if the submersible is at the surface.”

He said “a lot of things will have to go right” in terms of where the submersible is found and what rescue options there might be.

It could be floating on the sea surface as the hatch cannot be opened from the inside, unlike usual research submersibles.

“Even if it’s bobbing around at the sea surface, or just under, there’s really no way for them to get fresh air into the submersible,” said Mr Roterman.

But if the submersible has sunk to the sea bed, he said “options are limited” to using a remotely operated vehicle to help unsnag it, or potentially using a tether to connect it to a support vessel on the surface.

“There are some pretty big engineering challenges relating to having a cable that is both strong and light enough to not sag or break under its own weight when it’s deployed over several kilometres,” he said.

Describing what conditions could be like if the crew are still alive, Mr Roterman said: “It’s going to be very cramped, it may be very dark, depending on whether or not they have power or if they’re conserving power.

“It may be getting quite cold. I believe it has heated walls but whether or not that’s still functional at this point is anyone’s guess.”

He added: “This is very much a nightmare scenario and my heart goes out to not just the crew members, but their family and friends and colleagues who are going through a living hell.

“Right now, I think we’re all just keeping our fingers crossed that a miracle happens.”

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