Sub makes rapid ascent in Indian Ocean

The Nekton Mission's submersible had to make an emergency ascent after smoke filled the cockpit.
The Nekton Mission's submersible had to make an emergency ascent after smoke filled the cockpit.

Technicians investigating the cause of a subsea emergency in which a British scientist and her American pilot made a rapid ascent from 250 metres beneath the Indian Ocean now think it's unlikely it was caused by an electrical fire.

The pair with the British-led Nekton Mission investigating climate change off the Seychelles initiated the emergency procedure on Tuesday after an acrid smell of smoke seeped into the cockpit of their submersible. Neither was injured in the incident.

Nekton Mission director Oliver Steeds said he hoped it would be back in the water on Wednesday, adding that emergency procedures had worked well.

The sub was off Aldabra Island when pilot Robert Carmichael smelled smoke and immediately began to ascend. He told The Associated Press he quickly fitted breathing masks to his passenger, Molly Rivers, and himself. He began an emergency rise to the surface as the oxygen indicator fell to zero, though he added it might have been due to an instrument malfunction.

"It's the greatest fear: fire inside the cockpit. Your greatest fear. Where are you going to go?" Carmichael said.

A member of the sub's support team said it took 23 minutes to reach the surface.

The vessel was one of two involved in Sky TV's "Deep Ocean Live" program, part of a two-year campaign by the British broadcaster to focus attention on the state of the world's oceans.

Australian Associated Press