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U.S. firm plans to cut open the Titanic and retrieve radio used for its final distress call

The company insists that the secrets hidden inside the Titanic must be uncovered before they are lost in the crumbling ship forever

For more than a century, the historic treasures hidden inside the RMS Titanic have lain undisturbed in freezing darkness.

Even after the wreck was discovered in 1985, salvagers never dared venture to retrieve artefacts from inside the vessel. Until now.

Detailed plans to use underwater robots to “surgically remove” a roof from the Titanic and retrieve the precious items within can be revealed in today’s Daily Telegraph.

The prize: a rusted piece of communications equipment that represents an enduring image of the Titanic tragedy.

Behind the project is RMS Titanic Inc (RMST), the US company solely responsible for salvaging items from the vast debris field surrounding the broken wreck for nearly thirty years.

Backed by private equity firms, the company insists that the secrets hidden inside the Titanic must be uncovered before they are lost in the crumbling ship forever.
In the next few years, the overhead is expected to collapse, potentially burying forever the remains of the world's most famous radio
Documents seen by The Telegraph reveal plans to use a fleet of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) with mechanical arms to remove a deteriorating section of the roof, before “surgically” extracting the Marconi wireless, famed for issuing Titanic’s final frantic distress signals as it sank. “In the next few years, the overhead is expected to collapse, potentially burying forever the remains of the world’s most famous radio,” the document says.

The timing of the announcement is likely to infuriate British ministers, who will today announce a “historic treaty” with the US to better protect the wreck from unwanted scavengers and so-called grave robbers.

But RMST, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, believes the agreement has “no teeth” in US law, and plan to effectively ignore it. If the proposal is approved by a judge, the expedition will set sail later this year.

It would be difficult and dangerous. In a document filed yesterday with the United States district court in Eastern Virginia, RMST says it will send a manned submarine down to the wreck, which lies two and half miles beneath the surface in treacherous ocean currents. Three underwater robots would then be deployed to a small skylight on the Titanic’s deck above the Marconi Room, where the wireless operators slept and worked.

If all goes to plan, one of the ROVs would then use its mechanical “manipulators” to begin to “perforate the deck plating as needed”. The others would film the process.

Once the fragile roof is removed, the ROV would “collect the primary high-priority targets and transport them to a previously prepared subsea basket”. The precious load would then be hauled up safely to the surface.

RMST is acutely aware that some families and campaigners will fiercely oppose the idea of stripping metal away from the Titanic.

Indeed, the disaster’s last survivor Millvena Dean, who was just nine weeks old when the ship went down, said in 2000: “I think the ship should be left in peace. Any bits and pieces that have come out from the ship on the seabed, that is all right. But to go on the ship? No, that is all wrong.”

Questions have previously been raised over whether human remains still reside within the ship after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made the claim in 2012 that there are still “people inside”.

 The Titanic, celebrated as the world’s largest passenger steamship, set off on her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. The ship struck an iceberg on April 14 and sank early the next morning, killing more than 1,500 people.

Bretton Hunchak, president of RMST, insisted his company is determined to preserve history, rather than profits. In recent weeks, he visited Northern Ireland to ask descendants for their approval.

“I’ve been genuinely reassured by how people have responded to this project,” he told The Telegraph.
“This is a careful, surgical operation to rescue a historically significant item so it can teach future generations about the story of Titanic. We know that the wreck is deteriorating fast. Why would we let these artefacts disappear too?

“Surely, we owe it to the future to protect and preserve these items, before it’s too late.”
Once recovered, the Marconi wireless would likely go on display at the RMST’s exhibition at the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas, and then taken on a world tour including Belfast and Cherbourg. RMST believes it may even be able to restore the equipment to full working order, despite spending more than a century at the bottom of the Atlantic.

“Provided with electrical power and managed by new-manufactured condenser, transformer, regulators and phase-matched antenna, Titanic’s radio – Titanic’s voice – could once again be heard, now and forever,” the documents say.

Two experienced ocean explorers will lead the project. One is Pierre Henri Nargeolet, who led six expeditions to the Titanic between 1987 and 2010. He also led the team responsible for locating the wreckage of Air France flight 447, lost in the Atlantic Ocean en route from Buenos Aires. The other will be David Gallo, who co-led the Air France recovery and created the first comprehensive map of the Titanic wreck in 2010.

RMST was granted salvor-in-possession status in 1994, giving it the sole power to salvage items from the wreck site. During eight expeditions between 1987 and 2004, RMST retrieved about 5,500 artefacts from the vast debris field around the Titanic including crockery, hats, diamond jewellery and a giant loose piece of the ship’s hull.

Last year, the firm nearly lost the salvage rights after a coalition involving British museums and James Cameron, the Titanic film director, attempted to seize them in the courts. The group said it had no plans to further salvage the wreck, and would maintain the salvage rights only to prevent others from doing so.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Hunchak, a 32-year-old former financier, was appointed as the company’s president.



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