The largest collection of artefacts from the Titanic is to go up for auction as one giant lot next year to mark the 100th anniversary of the world’s most famous shipwreck.
Over 5,500 items including fine china, ship fittings and even portions of the luxury liner’s hull recovered from the ocean will go on sale with an estimated value of $189 million (£122 million).
Also included in the huge collection are personal belongings of the doomed liner’s passengers following seven separate dives to recover items from the Titanic between 1987 and 2004.
The vast hoard of items is being auctioned through RMS Titanic Inc, a firm who ‘are dedicated to preserving the legacy of the ship, wreck site and all her passengers’.
The $189 million value was based on a 2007 appraisal, and does not include intellectual property gathered from a 2010 scientific expedition that mapped the wreck site.
The auction itself is scheduled for April 1, while the results won’t be announced until April 15, the date exactly 100 years ago when the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage after striking an iceberg.
The sunken liner lies around two and a half miles below the ocean surface in the North Atlantic, about 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada.
The Titanic’s sinking claimed the lives of more than 1,500 of the 2,228 passengers and crew. An international team led by oceanographer Robert Ballard located the wreckage in 1985.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith, who has overseen the case from her Norfolk courtroom, has ruled that RMS Titanic has title to the artifacts and was entitled to full compensation for them.
She has not determined how RMS Titanic will be compensated.
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.
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 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.
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.