By Gabriella Borter
(Reuters) – Around the world, the story of the missing Titanic submersible and its rescue operation’s race against time has been riveting onlookers.
People have been glued to their television screens, fascinated by maritime experts detailing the hurdles for rescue efforts in a vast expanse of sea. They have been watching their phones, bracing for news alerts about the fate of a crew of seafaring explorers and billionaires who vanished this week after plunging into the ocean’s depths to see the storied century-old wreck.
Erin Geary, a 27-year-old research assistant in Atlanta, Georgia, described feeling sad, anxious and mystified as he watched the rescue operation for the Titan submersible unfold. She said she and her father had gotten caught up imagining what survival tactics the five passengers might be resorting to.
Geary grew up as a fan of the 1997 movie the “Titanic” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which cemented the ill-fated ship’s tale in modern popular imagination.
Views of the Titanic movie’s Wikipedia page surged on Wednesday, according to data from movie analytics site FlixPatrol.
“Some people think the Titanic is kind of cursed, so why would you purposely put yourself in that situation?” she said.
The submersible saga hearkens back to similarly harrowing, high-stakes rescue operations, like the 2010 recovery of more than 30 miners trapped in Chile and the miraculous recovery of a Thai boys’ football team from a flooded cave system in 2018. Both incidents became subjects of popular documentaries.
This week, there have been more than 2 million searches on Google for “submarine missing.”
On social media sites on Wednesday, commentary ranged from despair at the Titan occupants’ plight, to incredulity that anyone would want to embark on a risky mission in a small, cramped vessel.
Those onboard the vessel include British billionaire and adventurer Hamish Harding, 58, Pakistani-born businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, with his 19-year-old son Suleman, French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, and Stockton Rush, 61, founder and chief executive of OceanGate.
Some people expressed frustration that the tourist voyage had received such an expensive rescue operation while bigger boat tragedies with less prominent passengers, such as the deadly wreck of a fishing boat carrying hundreds of migrant passengers near Greece last week, failed to rally the same public outcry.
In Boston, near the Coast Guard base that has been delivering public updates on the search, paralegal Jenna Roat said on Wednesday that she had been captivated by the rescue efforts along with her family and friends.
Her wish for a miracle was waning with the approach of Thursday morning, when experts estimated the Titan would run out of oxygen.
“There’s not a lot of hope,” she said.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Additional reporting by Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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