A friend of the British billionaire who is trapped in a missing submarine on a trip to the wreck of the Titanic has revealed the last text message he received from him.
Retired NASA astronaut Colonel Terry Virts said Hamish Harding messaged him to say, “Hey, we’re leaving tomorrow, it’s looking good, the weather was bad, so they’ve been waiting for this.”
As rescue teams continue to search for the underwater hull with five people on board, Colonel Virts added that he and his friend “don’t really talk about risk.”
Mr Harding is chairman of the private jet firm Action Aviation, which said he is one of the mission specialists on the OceanGate Expeditions vessel that was reported overdue on Sunday night, about 435 miles south of St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
A major search and rescue operation, led by the US Coast Guard and involving military jets 900 miles east of Cape Cod, continued this morning.
Colonel Terry Virts, a friend of Hamish Harding, speaks to ITV’s Good Morning Britain today
Hamish Harding is trapped in a missing submarine on a journey to the wreckage of the Titanic
This is the latest sighting of the Titan submarine, which was launched on Sunday
And Colonel Virts told ITVs Good morning Great Britain today: ‘We don’t really talk about risk, that is well known. He certainly understood the risks, there is no doubt about that.
“The last text I got was, ‘Hey, we’re leaving tomorrow, it’s looking good, the weather’s been bad, so they’ve been waiting for this.’
“He went to the deepest part of the ocean, set some world records… at the Marianna Trench and we talked quite a bit about the risks and the different things they could do. So he was very excited about it.’
Mr Harding set a Guinness world record for the longest time spent at the bottom of the sea.
The London-born adventurer set it down in 2021 after diving in a submarine to the deepest place on Earth, the Mariana Trench, and sailing through it for four hours and 15 minutes.
It was one of three world records the 58-year-old has set. He laid down another for the longest distance—three miles—covered at the bottom of the ocean.
His first was in 2019, for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth via the North and South Poles in a Gulfstream 650ER business jet. And last year he went into space.
Speaking of the trip to the Titanic, Colonel Virts added: ‘They actually go there for a fun trip, but they also do serious science. The wreck of the Titanic has changed over the years, it is beginning to fall apart.
“And there are several scientists on the mission who are actually looking at the submarine surface and how the Titanic is doing. So it wasn’t just a fun trip, they were actually doing real exploration for all of humanity.
OceanGate Expeditions is one of the companies offering guided tours of the famous shipwreck
The US Coast Guard in Boston is now searching for the missing ship off the coast of Newfoundland
The crew dived to the ocean floor to investigate the Titanic’s wreckage
Titanic is not just important for Britain, it is important for everyone. That way they can see how the ship deteriorates over the years under the ocean.’
The US Coast Guard said the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince and 106 Rescue Wing will continue to conduct surface searches, while the US Coast Guard has sent two C-130 flights to search for the missing submarine.
Mr Harding’s cousin, Kathleen Cosnett, told the Daily Telegraph that she saw Mr Harding as ‘bold’ and ‘curious’, and that she was ‘devastated’ when she learned he was missing.
Taking to social media over the weekend, Mr Harding said he was “proud to finally announce” that he would be aboard the mission to the wreck of the Titanic, the luxury ocean liner that hit an iceberg and sank in 1912, which killed more than 1,500 people.
OceanGate Expeditions said the focus was on those aboard the ship and their families.
Harding posted on social media that he was on the mission before launching the submarine
Colonel Terry Virts is a retired NASA astronaut and friend of the missing Hamish Harding
“We are deeply grateful for the extensive assistance we have received from various government agencies and deep-sea companies in our efforts to re-establish contact with the submarine,” the company said in a statement.
“We are working for the safe return of the crew members.”
A court document filed in April by OceanGate in the US states that the submarine, dubbed Titan, can dive to 4,120 feet “with a comfortable margin of safety.”
Titan weighs 20,000 pounds, is made of “titanium and filament wound carbon fiber,” and has proven to “withstand the tremendous pressures of the deep ocean,” according to OceanGate.
The submarine joined OceanGate’s third annual voyage to monitor the decay of the shipwreck, following expeditions in 2021 and 2022.