The five people on board the missing tourist submersible that was on an expedition to the wreck of the Titanic have been sent a message of hope by a man who survived a similar ordeal 50 years ago.
As the search intensifies for the Titan craft that lost communications with its mothership on Sunday (June 18), deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean, with only enough oxygen left to keep them alive until Thursday, former Royal Navy engineer Roger Mallinson says there is a glimmer of hope for the quintet if his own miracle escape from the jaws of a watery death is anything to go by.
Mallinson said: “There’s always hope. It’s amazing what can happen.”
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“They need to keep warm so they don’t freeze and conserve the oxygen. After what we went through, there’s always hope.”
The 85-year-old and his work colleague at the time, Roger Chapman, were involved in the deepest underwater rescue in history and survived being trapped for 84 hours inside a six foot-diameter steel ball after it plunged 1,600 ft to the seabed.
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They had only 12 minutes of oxygen left when they were finally rescued and winched to the surface off the coast of Ireland after getting into difficulty when laying deep-sea telephone cables 150 miles off the coast on August 19, 1973.
The two men were using a submersible, Pisces III, to lay cables. Everything had gone smoothly until right at the end of their mission when the aft sphere of their vessel flooded, causing the vehicle to sink.
A submarine was flown in from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and another was shipped from the North Sea to help with their rescue, while a remote-controlled miniature sub was flown in by the US Air Force.
Four separate attempts were made to save the pair without any luck, before a repaired Pisces II, which had been damaged during the first rescue attempt, was successfully piloted down to the ocean floor.
Once there it helped lift Pisces III to the surface. The pair only had one cheese and chutney sandwich and a can of lemonade between them, but they did not want to eat or drink them.
Mallinson, from Troutbeck, Cumbria, told The Mirror: “We were OK when the hatch opened, it was a great relief. We felt lucky to be alive, it was amazing, it really was amazing.
“There was not much chance of a rescue. We didn’t think we were going to survive.
“It was fairly obvious we weren’t going to survive because our oxygen was running out and every time anyone came to help, it went wrong for some daft reason.”
Speaking before his death, Chapman said: “If you switch off, you use one quarter of the oxygen. You don’t talk or move.
“We hardly spoke, just grabbing each other’s hand and giving it a squeeze to show we were alright. It was very cold – we were wet through.
“When they opened the hatch and fresh air and sunlight rushed in it gave us blinding headaches, but we were sorted, we were euphoric.
“But we were also a bit pathetic. It was quite difficult to climb out of the sub, we’d been so cramped up, we could hardly move.”
Five decades on from his terrifying ordeal, Mallinson said he hoped the crew of the missing sub were still making every effort to contact rescue teams, but he warned: “The thing I worry about is why there have been no messages from the vessel. It makes me seriously worried that there’s no one alive.
“I imagine they will be hitting the hull of the vessel with a hammer so that if there is someone in the area they may hear it. It carries a hell of a long way, a lot of miles.”