Hamish Harding: Billionaire adventurer who was killed on board Titanic submarine

The Dubai businessman had an enduring fascination with exploration throughout his life

In this photo provided by Blue Origin, NS-21 (New Shepard-21), astronaut Hamish Harding receives his Blue Origin astronaut pin after a successful flight to space on June 4, 2022, in Van Horn, Texas.  According to Action Aviation, a company for which Harding serves as chairman, the U. K.  businessman was one of the mission specialists onboard a missing submersible carrying five people to view the wreckage of the Titanic that was reported overdue late Sunday, June 18, 2023.  (Felix Kunze / Blue Origin via AP)
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Dubai-based entrepreneur Hamish Harding was among five crew who died on the Titan submersible's tragic voyage to the Titanic shipwreck.

It was only the latest ambitious adventure for a man with a burning desire to push himself to the limits and journey into the unknown.

Confirmation that the crew had not survived the daring deep-sea odyssey came on Thursday, ending a desperate search for the vessel which disappeared on Sunday.

The family of Mr Harding issued a statement in which they described him as a "passionate explorer – whatever the terrain".

The words served as a fitting tribute to man who travelled to the deepest point of the ocean and floated in microgravity at the edge of space during a life lived to the fullest.

Here, the National charts his remarkable story, and those of his fellow crew who sadly died alongside him.

Hamish Harding

The UAE-based British billionaire was married with two children and holds three Guinness World Records.

They include the longest time spent traversing the deepest part of the ocean – the Mariana Trench – on a single dive, and the fastest navigation of Earth via the North and South Poles by plane.

In 2021, Mr Harding dived in a two-man submarine mission lasting 36 hours to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench with American explorer Victor Vescovo, breaking records by traversing the deepest part of the ocean for four hours and 15 minutes and travelling 4.6 kilometres along the sea floor.

In a post on Facebook to mark the five-month anniversary of the dive, Harding said: “Can’t believe it’s been that long already but absolutely can’t wait for our next mission/journey/adventure!”

Mr Harding’s fastest circumnavigation via both poles took 46 hours and 40 minutes and was done in July 2019. He was the pilot and director of the mission, which marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, according to the Living Legends of Aviation.

But Mr Harding had made more than one trip to the South Pole. The awards body said that in 2016 he accompanied Mr Aldrin – who became the oldest person to reach the South Pole aged 86 – and took his son Giles in 2020, who became the youngest person to reach the South Pole aged 12.

Video: Five die after submersible implodes

Video: Five die after submersible implodes

His other Guinness World Record was for the longest distance travelled along the deepest part of the ocean – 4.634km, which he did during the Mariana Trench dive in 2021.

The following year, in June 2022, Mr Harding flew to space as part of the fifth human space flight run by Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin.

Later that year, the adventurer won his Living Legends of Aviation award which he described as an “honour” in his acceptance speech before thanking his wife and two sons as well as his “very loving, very beautiful, very loyal” golden retrievers.

The billionaire, who was to turn 59 on Saturday, had called the UAE his home since 2008.

Mr Harding wrote in a post on Instagram on June 18 that this was likely to be the only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023 “due to the worst weather in Newfoundland in 40 years”.

“A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow,” he wrote.

He was “looking forward to conducting research” at the Titanic site, said Richard Garriott de Cayeux, the president of The Explorers Club, a group to which Mr Harding belongs.

Mr Harding graduated from the University of Cambridge with a degree in natural sciences and chemical engineering and founded UK-and Dubai-based private equity company Action Group in 2002. The business includes Action Aviation, which offers aircraft brokerage, management and financing services.

Stockton Rush

Stockton Rush, president of OceanGate, hoped to make the Titanic more accessible with visits to the wreckage aboard his privately owned five-person submarine.

The initial goal was to take paying guests to the site on weekly visits from May to September, coupling the trips with research efforts that allow passengers to contribute as citizen scientists.

Mr Rush, who augmented inherited wealth via angel and venture investing, earned a degree from Princeton University in aerospace engineering and an MBA from the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. In his early 60s, Mr Rush became the youngest jet transport-rated pilot in the world when, at 19, he obtained his captain’s rating at the United Airlines Jet Training Institute in 1981, according to his biography on the OceanGate website.

He worked with Boeing on an early design of the Titan carbon-fibre sub and then with Nasa.

He experienced aborted trips to the Titanic wreck site in the past – his sub was hit by lightning in 2018, destroying its electrical system and scuttling the mission. A second attempt ended unsuccessfully the next year because of issues with the mother ship used to transport the team and equipment.

While he initially focused on space, and modelled his efforts after Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, Mr Rush said he realised that his desire to discover new lifeforms and go where no man had gone before was more likely to be realised in the ocean.

Titanic tourist submersible goes missing - in pictures

Shahzada and Suleman Dawood

The father and son are members of one of Pakistan’s most prominent families, which released a statement Tuesday confirming they were on board the Titan.

Shahzada Dawood was vice chairman of Engro Corp, which has businesses stretching from fertiliser to power generation. He graduated from the University of Buckingham with a law degree in 1998 and from Philadelphia University with a master’s in textile marketing in 2000.

Mr Dawood was also an adviser of Prince's Trust International. On Tuesday, the chief executive of the charity said it was shocked by the news.

Suleman is a 19-year-old student at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. A statement from the family highlighted Suleman's enthusiasm for science fiction literature, his passion for learning new things, and his interest in activities such as solving Rubik's Cube puzzles and playing volleyball.

Paul Henry Nargeolet

Mr Nargeolet was a pre-eminent diver and considered to be the world’s leading expert on the Titanic wreck and its debris field, which covers 25 square nautical miles (8,574 hectares). He was director of underwater research for Experiential Media Group, or E/M Group, and RMS Titanic Inc., and completed dozens of submersible dives to the wreck site.

He was born in Chamonix, France, and lived with his family in Africa for 13 years, completed his studies in Paris and spent 22 years in the French Navy, rising to the rank of commander, according to his biography on the E/M Group’s website. He led the first recovery expedition to the Titanic in 1987 after joining the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea.

Mr Nargeolet spoke to the Titanic Channel about what would happen to someone stuck at the site of the wreck, saying the cold would be one of the greatest dangers and pointing out that explorers are aware of the risks.

Updated: June 24, 2023, 4:11 AM