Around 7pm ET on Saturday night, billionaire explorer Hamish Harding took to Instagram to reveal he was among the crew of a submersible vessel on their way to explore the Titanic wreckage.

“I am proud to finally announce that I joined OceanGate Expeditions for their RMS TITANIC Mission as a mission specialist on the sub going down to the Titanic,” Mr Harding wrote.

“Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023. A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow.”

Mr Harding said the five-member crew, which included French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Sulaiman Dawood, had set sail from St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, on Friday.

They were planning to start their 4,000m descent to the most famous shipwreck in the world at 4am on Sunday morning.

“Until then we have a lot of preparations and briefings to do,” he said.

The Polar Prince icebreaker sailed around 900 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, where it set anchor.

The five-person crew was dropped into the ocean in their 22-foot long submersible vessel, the Titan, at 7.30am EST on Sunday, Mr Harding’s close friend Jannicke Mikkelsen told The Independent.

Just over two hours later at 9.47am, the vessel lost contact with the Polar Prince, according to Ms Mikkelsen.

The vessel was programmed to send out a “ping” every 15 minutes to indicate its location. The final signal was sent at around 10am ET, according to The Times.

There has been no further contact with the vessel since.

The OceanGate Expeditions submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic

(PA Media)

The Titan typically takes around two hours to reach the Titanic wreckage, located about 4,000m beneath the ocean.

According to CNN, it had been due to resurface nine hours after beginning the mission at around 1.30pm ET.

When it failed to resurface, the crew raised the alarm with authorities 25 minutes later.

The vessel was carrying enough oxygen for the crew for 96 hours — making the rescue mission a race against time to reach the vessel.

On Monday morning, authorities revealed the Titan was missing and a large-scale search operation had been launched.

The US Coast Guard began a sweeping search of a 5,000sqm area about 900 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Canadian Coast Guard said it too is taking part in the effort with fixed wing aircraft and a ship.

At 1.30pm, the US Coastguard’s Northeast tweeted that a C-130 Hercules reconnaissance aircraft had been dispatched to search for the Titan.

P8 Poseidon aircraft with underwater sonar capabilities joined the search on Monday afternoon.

“It is a remote area and it is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area but we are deploying all available assets to make sure we can locate the craft and rescue the people onboard,” US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger told reporters during a briefing at 4.30pm EST on Monday.

Submersible craft including an unmanned US Navy Curv-21, which can reach depth of 4,000m, also joined the search.

The Polar Prince and 106 Rescue Wing continued to conduct surface searches throughout Monday evening.

On Tuesday, a Canadian Aircraft P3 Aurora joined the effort, as the search area expanded to 10,000sqm.

The Titan’s oxygen supply is due to run out on Thursday morning.

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