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Titanic auction expected to sell off 5,500 items from ship

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Smith, a maritime jurist who has called the Titanic an "international treasure," has approved covenants and conditions that the company previously worked out with the federal government, including a prohibition against selling the collection piecemeal.

Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 off the eastern Canadian coast. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The conditions, which accompanied a 2010 ruling, also require RMS to make the artifacts available "to present and future generations for public display and exhibition, historical review, scientific and scholarly research, and educational purposes."

Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions has been displaying the Titanic artifacts in exhibitions around the world. The items include personal belongings of passengers, such as perfume from a manufacturer who was traveling to New York to sell his samples.

RMS recovered artifacts from the shipwreck in expeditions in 1987, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2004.

In its SEC filing, Premier acknowledged any future owner of the Titanic treasures must abide by the covenants and conditions.

In accordance with court's conditions, "The Property will be sold as a complete collection and offered for sale as one lot," Guernsey's wrote in the SEC filing, which outlines the terms of the auction. The auction house's commission is 8 percent of a successful bid.

In 2010, RMS Titanic collaborated with some of the world's leading experts in the most technologically advanced expedition to the Titanic, undertaking the first comprehensive mapping survey of the vessel with 3-D imagery from bow to stern.

Some of the never-before-seen images were shown in Smith's courtroom. The most striking images involved the 3-D tour of the Titanic's stern, which lies 2,000 feet from the bow.

A camera in a remote-controlled submersible vehicle skimmed over the stern, seemingly transporting viewers through scenes of jagged rusticles sprouting from the deck, a length of chain, the captain's bathtub, and wooden elements that scientists had previously believed had disappeared in the harsh, deep ocean environment.

The cameras did not probe the interior of the wreck. But the expedition fully mapped the 3-by-5-mile wreck site, documenting the entire debris field for the first time.

The new images will ultimately be assembled for public viewing, scientists said, and to help oceanographers and archaeologists explain the ship's violent descent to the ocean bottom. It is also intended to provide answers on the state of the wreck, which scientists say is showing increasing signs of deterioration.

"Titanic" director James Cameron also has led teams to the wreck to record the bow and the stern.

The Titanic exhibit is among several operated by Premier Exhibitions, which bills itself as "a major provider of museum-quality touring exhibitions." Its offerings have included sports memorabilia, a traveling Star Trek homage and "Bodies," an anatomy exhibit featuring preserved human cadavers.

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