Escorted to a Canadian Coast Guard base, the ship that launched the ill-fated Titan submersible returned from international waters to its home port, St. John’s, Newfoundland, on Saturday morning, where investigators boarded it looking for answers.
For hours, a procession of about a dozen people — some wearing jump suits identifying them as investigators from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada — boarded or exited the ship, the Polar Prince, which docked at the Atlantic headquarters of the coast guard.
Pulling large plastic equipment cases, investigators were expected to look for clues that might explain what went wrong aboard the Titan, a submersible that took wealthy passengers from around the world on $250,000 tours of the Titanic wreck site, 12,500 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
On Thursday, a search-and-rescue effort by international teams came to an end, after debris was discovered on the ocean floor, about 1,600 feet from the Titanic wreck, and U.S. Coast Guard officials announced that the missing vessel had most likely imploded, killing the five people on board.
Because the Titan lacked propulsion, the Polar Prince, a Canadian ship owned by Miawpukek Horizon Maritime Service, had tugged the Titan to its launch point.
The Polar Prince remained near the launch point until the authorities ended the search and it headed to the coast guard headquarters.
More than an hour after the ship arrived, about a dozen people clad in orange safety vests and wearing white hard hats entered the vessel, including at least two investigators.
On Friday, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada announced the investigation and arrived in St. John’s lugging duffel bags and hard cases emblazoned with its name or initials.
In a statement that day, the agency said that because the Polar Prince was registered as a Canadian vessel, it had begun an investigation into the apparent implosion of the Titan submersible.
The Polar Prince was built in 1959 as a light icebreaker and buoy tender for the Canadian Coast Guard, which named it Sir Humphrey Gilbert. After being taken out of government service in 2001, the ship was renamed Gilbert 1 and changed hands several times.
That swirl of owners included one who listed it on eBay in 2005 with a starting bid of $1 million.
The owners of Miawpukek Horizon Maritime Service include the Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi First Nation in Conne River, Newfoundland.
The Polar Prince set off from its home port of St. John’s on Sunday with the five passengers — and some family members, it is widely believed — for the excursion to the Titanic wreck site. The ship had lain in dock several weeks before that as it was preparing for the voyage, which was delayed under increment weather.
It returned on Saturday under sunny skies and warm weather.