The French explorer who perished during the Titan submersible’s voyage to the Titanic has spent decades working with a controversial company that has recovered thousands of relics from the sinking.
Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, nicknamed “Mr Titanic” as a leading wreck expert, has led several expeditions for RMS Titanic Inc, which holds the sole salvage rights.
The company says it is “dedicated to preserving the legacy of the ship, the wreck site and all of its passengers”, but its work has proven controversial. Critics accused him of trying to ‘profit’ from the ‘robbery and looting’ of a ship involved in a tragedy that claimed the lives of around 1,500 people.
Nargeolot, who has always said his goal is “education and preservation”, had already taken part in dozens of dives at the site before his trip aboard the experimental submersible Titan.
The other victims were British billionaire adventurer Hamish Harding, 58, Shahzada Dawood, 48, a UK board member of the Prince’s Trust charity, and his son Sulaiman Dawood, 19, and the CEO of OceanGate, Stockton Rush, 61.
PH Nargeolet, 71, was an expert on the Titanic wreckage and worked with a company that recovered thousands of artifacts from the site.
A bronze cherub that would have adorned a stair post on the Titanic. The ship’s grand staircase was adorned with many such gilt ornaments
A porcelain teacup used by a first-class passenger and Titanic’s postmaster Oscar Woody’s pocket watch
A platinum, 18-karat gold and diamond ring (left) that most likely belonged to one of Titanic’s first-class passengers accompanies a sapphire and diamond coin
RMS recovered artifacts from the sinking during expeditions in 1987, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2004.
A large number of jewels were also recovered from the wreckage.
They included an 18k gold and diamond ring, dazzling necklaces and sets of earrings.
In 2020 a UK politician compared RMS Titanic Inc to sea bandits and said the job amounted to ‘stealing and looting’ wreckage.
Gavin Robinson, DUP MP for Belfast East, where the Titanic was built, has criticized a plan by US firm RMS Titanic Inc to salvage artifacts from the Titanic and display them in Las Vegas.
RMS Titanic has always maintained that it wanted to preserve the relics on the wreck before they were lost forever. He contacted loved ones of souls who lost their lives on board and received blessings for rescue missions.
Among the items that have been recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic since its discovery in 1985 is the ship’s bell. Above: The bell exhibited in 2010
When the Titanic struck an iceberg and it became apparent the ship was going to sink, crewman Samuel Hemming was ordered by Captain Edward Smith to ensure that all 15 lifeboats had lights on. oil. In 2012 the keys Hemming used to unlock the door where the lanterns were kept sold for £20,000. Tellingly, they carry a label with the name of the ship. Keys were relisted in 2016
In 2012, the menu for the last meal served to first class passengers on board Titanic sold for £76,000. The menu had been recovered by a survivor of the disaster
Nargeolet recovered 5,000 ship artifacts during his career and even lifted a 20-tonne section of the ship’s hull for analysis.
Items recovered from the ship have long captured the imagination of historians and enthusiasts interested in the tragedy.
There are also many separate collections of items that were carried by survivors of the ship and sold to private individuals, including a Last Supper menu served to first class passengers and items carried by the ship’s crew .
Nargeolet served as Director of Underwater Research for RMS Titanic Inc and appeared in numerous films and documentaries about the ship.
The company’s mission is “to explore the wreckage of the Titanic and its surrounding ocean areas; obtain oceanographic material and scientific data; and the use of recovered data and artifacts for historical verification, scientific education, and public outreach”.
PH, as his friends call him, was born in Chamonix, in the French Alps, but spent his early years in Africa with his parents.
Nargeolet spent over 20 years in the French Navy, rising to Commander.
He then specialized in deep submersibles and in 1987 led the first Titanic recovery expedition.
Nargeolet was married to American newsreader Michelle Marsh until his death in 2017 at the age of 63. He lived in Connecticut and his children live in Cork, Ireland.
Built by Belfast-based shipbuilders Harland and Wolff between 1909 and 1912, RMS Titanic was the largest afloat ship of her time. Pictured is the Titanic undergoing sea trials
Built by Belfast-based shipbuilders Harland and Wolff between 1909 and 1912, RMS Titanic was the largest afloat ship of her time.
Titan, operated by OceanGate, was on its way to the wreckage of the Titanic when it imploded
Titan was a tourist submarine that imploded while traveling to the wreck of the Titanic, 12,500 feet below the Atlantic Ocean
In 2016, RMS Titanic Inc and its parent company, Premier Exhibitions Inc, filed for bankruptcy and nearly auctioned off the relics in their possession.
Some activists, including Titanic director James Cameron, led a failed campaign to have the collection become the property of a consortium of museums. The auction never took place.
Nargeolet said in 2012: “I remember talking to [a Titanic victim’s relative]a woman, who said to me: “I don’t like what you are doing because my father died on the boat”,
‘I agree with that. But I have met other survivors who love what we do. They believe it helps keep the ship and its legacy alive.
He added: “I think it’s good to record artifacts, it’s good for education and preservation. That’s the point.