Family remembers ‘legend’ Hamish Harding, British billionaire who died in Titanic submarine accident

Aviator was 58 years old

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
,William Mata
Wednesday 28 June 2023 11:20 BST
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Titanic submarine: What happened?

Family members have paid tribute to Hamish Harding, the British billionaire, aviation tycoon, and explorer who is among the five people who died on a failed submarine expedition last week to the wreck of the Titanic.

A statement from Harding’s family, via his company, Action Aviation, described him as a dedicated father of two and “living legend” who loved to explore and push the boundaries of what was possible.

“He was one of a kind and we adored him. He was a passionate explorer – whatever the terrain – who lived his life for his family, his business and for the next adventure,” the statement reads. “What he achieved in his lifetime was truly remarkable and if we can take any small consolation from this tragedy, it’s that we lost him doing what he loved.”

Follow the latest updates on the missing Titanic submarine here

The aviation tycoon was known for his daring feats of exploration.

Hamish Harding (Dirty Dozen Productions)
Hamish Harding (Dirty Dozen Productions) (PA Media)

In 2021, he went on a record-setting voyage to Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, which at 36,000 feet below sea level is the deepest part of the ocean.

Harding also made record-breaking trips to the South Pole alongside Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the oldest person ever to reach the pole, and Harding’s son Giles, 12, the youngest to ever accomplish the feat.

The aviation businessman also completed the fastest circumnavigation of the globe above the North and South Pole.

“Hey, we’re headed out tomorrow, it looks good, the weather’s been bad so they’ve been waiting for this,” the 58-year-old billionaire wrote, according to retired NASA colonel Terry Virts, who shared the final text he received from Harding, and said his friend undoubtedly “understood the risks” of the dangerous adventure.

“Hey, we’re headed out tomorrow, it looks good, the weather’s been bad so they’ve been waiting for this,” the message read, Mr Virts told ITV.

The astronaut said his friend “understood the risks” of his deep-sea expedition to the famous shipwreck.

All five crewmembers of the OceanGate Titan submersible mission to the Titanic died in a “catastrophic implosion,” the US Coast Guard confirmed on Thursday.

Oceangate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, and French adventurer Paul-Henri Nargeolet were the others on board the Titan when it lost communications with a support ship less than two hours into a 4,000m dive to the Titanic shipwreck on Sunday.

Richard Garriot, president of the Explorers Club, a society for scientists and explorers, mourned the loss of members Harding and Nargeolet, calling them adventurers who were “drawn to explore” for the “betterment of mankind.”

“Hamish Harding is a dear friend to me personally and to The Explorers Club. He holds several world records and has continued to push dragons off maps both in person and through supporting expeditions and worthy causes,” Mr Garriot said in a statement. “Paul-Henri was elected to the Club in 2001 and was one of the foremost experts on submersible expeditions to the Titanic.”

Who was British billionaire Hamish Harding?

Hamish Harding began his career after graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in natural sciences and chemical engineering.

However, it was his interest in flying that guided his career path and he set up Action Aviation, an aircraft business, from a base in the Middle East. For most of his professional life he lived in Dubai - and helped to grow business ventures in the UAE, particularly encouraging research and space travel.

Action Aviation was founded in 2004. The company’s LinkedIn profile states it “[Provides] aircraft and helicopter brokerage services to many owners who wish to sell, as well as buyers in the market for the first time or replacing/upgrading their existing aircraft for something more suitable”.

After making his fortune, he was able to follow some of his passions for adventure, particularly for exploration, aviation and space adventure.

This saw him visit the South Pole several times, including alongside former Nasa astronaut Buzz Aldrin in 2016, and fly around the world. Along the way, he was able to set a world record for diving to the deepest point of the Mariana Trench in a two-person submarine.

He was also involved in a conservation project aimed at reintroducing the cheetah to India, while last year got a first taste for space tourism as part of the Blue Origin project, taking part in the fifth manned spaceflight of the New Shepard rocket.

In 2022 he was inducted into the Living Legend of Aviation guild in 2022, an elite club that also contains the likes of Tom Cruise and Kenn Ricci.

He died on June 18, just a few days before what would have been his 59th birthday.

Mr Harding leaves behind his wife Linda Harding, with whom he had four children.

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