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Elon Musk breaks silence on Titanic submarine that reportedly used Starlink internet

The sub disappeared on Monday, sparking a search for the vessel before it runs out of oxygen

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 22 June 2023 09:11 BST
Related video: Missing Titanic submarine: What happened to the Titan tourist submersible?

Elon Musk, the CEO of Twitter and SpaceX, has broken his silence about the disappearance of a research submarine visiting the remains of the Titanic.

The company operating the sub, OceanGate Expeditions, previously tweeted their appreciation for Mr Musk's Starlink service — provided through SpaceX — which allowed them to access the internet while adventuring in the North Atlantic Ocean.

“Despite being in the middle of the North Atlantic, we have the internet connection we need to make our #Titanic dive operations a success - thank you @Starlink!” the company tweeted earlier this month.

Follow our live blog for updates on the Titanic sub rescue mission

Mr Musk responded to a tweet made by Snopes post pointing out that he is the CEO of SpaceX, which provides the Starlink service. He suggested the connection between Starlink and the sub was a “psyop.”

“You can’t even run a good psy op,” Mr Musk wrote.

Reports arose on Monday that OceanGate Expeditions had lost contact with the sub and its passengers, sparking a frenzied search effort to locate the vehicle before its life support runs out.

Tourists can pay $250,000 for the opportunity to board the sub — which is an "experimental" craft — and visit the remains of the Titanic, which sunk in 1912.

There is no evidence currently suggesting Starlink played any role in the vessel's disappearance.

Defenders of Mr Musk were quick to point out that Starlink could not possibly be used to communicate with the sub due to the depths involved in the vessel’s operation.

“There is no such thing as internet service several miles underneath the f****** ocean. snopes is as viciously partisan and ‘fake’ as any conspiracy subreddit i’ve ever encountered,” one verified Twitter user, a self-proclaimed “disinformation researcher” Mike Solana wrote.

However, OceanGate Expeditions never claimed it was using the internet to communicate with the sub; it also operates surface vessels in support roles during its expeditions that previous reporting confirms does rely on internet connection.

Despite his response, it is unclear if Mr Musk is denying that OceanGate Expeditions uses internet provided by Starlink.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Musk and SpaceX for comment.

David Pogue, who toured the sub and produced a feature story on the vessel for CBS News prior to its voyage, revealed on Monday that the ship actually was lost for approximately five hours while he was reporting the story.

Mr Pogue said he was on board the command vessel at the time of the disappearance, and said that the crew were capable of sending texts to the support staff during the five-hour period.

"To be clear, I was not on the sub that day—I was on the ship at the surface, in the control room. They could still send short texts to the sub, but did not know where it was," he wrote on Twitter.

It's unclear why the sub's occupants cannot text the command vessel during this voyage.

He said the company shut off internet access to the journalists on the command ship to stop them from publicising the fact that the sub was lost.

"It was quiet and very tense, and they shut off the ship’s internet to prevent us from tweeting," he wrote.

When commenters pressed him for why he did not report that OceanGate allegedly cut their access to the internet, Mr Pogue said the company told them they needed all channels clear for emergencies. He also noted that the sub’s misadventure prompted discussions about installing a locator beacon similar to those used by airplanes, though it is unclear if such measures were ever taken.

British billionaire, businessman and explorer Hamish Harding is among the individuals missing on the sub. He shared in a social media post that he was brought on as a mission specialist to assist in the sub’s voyage to the wreckage.

Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French maritime expert, is also one of the missing. He has taken more than dives to visit the Titanic’s wreckage. He serves as the director of underwater research for RMS Titanic, Inc, a US company that owns the salvage rights to the wreck.

British businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood are also known to be on the sub, according to a statement made by Engro Corporation. Mr Dawood is the vice chair of the company. The Dawoods hail from one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families.

Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, is also on the vessel, according to the company.

The US Coast Guard said in a statement Tuesday that there is less than 40 hours worth of air left in the vessel, narrowing the time frame for a successful rescue of the missing crew.

Coast Guard and US Navy vessels have continued to search for the vessel since it was reported missing by OceanGate Expeditions.

David Lochridge, a pilot who helped test the sub, claims he was fired after he warned that the vessel may not be able to withstand the pressure of the deep ocean, according to The New Republic. He claims that when he raised concerns that the company might be putting its clients at risk, he was given “10 minutes to immediately clear out his desk.”

The Independent has requested comment from OceanGate Expeditions.

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