Attempt At Pirating the Wreck

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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I've been hearing rumors from good sources that something's about to "hit the fan" over an attempt at pirating the wreck in 2002. I'm told that the effort was unsuccessful due to an ROV malfunction but that there are pictures of those involved and even an admission on the part of someone on the "expedition" that that is what they intended. Does anyone know anything else about who, what, when, where and what's about to happen over it?
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Digging about, I found that the ROV Abyssub 5000 was recently acquired by Ocean Resources, a company whose Vice President of Recovery Operations is Graham Jessop.

http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/040203/35243_1.html

The company's stated intention is to recovered valuable cargo and artifacts from numerous wrecks. Titanic is not mentioned.
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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Thanks for the links Dave. This is probably the first time ever that I've looked under this particular thread on the message board. Will be watching for "new" news in the next few weeks as I hear trouble is brewing bigtime for 4 or 5 individuals. Was told there will be some surprises.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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It seems possible that Graham Jessop may be positioning himself to work on Titanic if RMS Titanic Inc loses salvage rights. Things could get messy.
 

Bill Willard

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Mar 24, 2001
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Documents should arrive in Court in Norfolk tomorrow morning, revealing that 4 former RMST employees were involved in an attempt to recover artifacts from Titanic. At least two of the employees were still employed by RMST when the planning for this began.

Pictures and copies of documents supporting the statements regarding the rogue expedition were submitted as well.

RMST, per the grapevine, will return to Titanic contrary to earlier announcements, possibly as soon as the summer of 2005. This may be announced soon by the company, if my source is correct. They will also flip-flop on the salvor status. Recently the company declared an intent to relinquish salvor status, but now they see that is a poor option and will no longer cling to that philosophy.
 
Feb 14, 2011
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How Bill, will they dive the wreck?
Last I heard they burned thier bridge with the Mir folks.....Is there another submersible they'll use?Certainly not Nautille or Alvin...
Great god, they plan to recover more artifats, even though scores of artifacts that await conservation sit in a warehouse?
very sad..

Tarn Stephanos
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Last I heard they burned thier bridge with the Mir folks.....Is there another submersible they'll use?<<

That's what I'd like to know. Alvin decommissioned, RMSTI being on the outs with the Russians and the ever useful Mirs, who does that leave who would be willing to deal with them? The list of submersibles capable of making the dive is a short one.

Oh...one other thing: Where is the money coming from for a 2005 expedition? I was under the impression that RMSTI is having a problem with that!
 
Apr 29, 2004
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From today's Times...

BRITISH salvage experts have been secretly involved in an unauthorised mission to take priceless artefacts from the Titanic. The leaders of the rogue voyage, codenamed Bluelight, had close links to the company that holds a legal duty to prevent the vessel from being plundered by pirates, The Times has learnt.

The expedition to the world’s most famous shipwreck has provoked allegations of duplicity, illegality and chicanery on the high seas. A file of documents detailing the trip, which quietly left Hull 18 months ago and returned to Liverpool two months later, was delivered this week to an American federal court in Norfolk, Virginia.

The papers reveal that the survey ship Northern Horizon braved the waters of the North Atlantic, where the Titanic lies 2½ miles down, at a time of year normally considered too dangerous for operations.

Court documents reveal that on board were some of the world’s most experienced marine treasure hunters, equipped with an Abyssub (remote operated vehicle.

It had been fitted with robot arms capable of reaching for goods inside the first-class cargo hold, whose contents are worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Nobody knows what, if any, artefacts were retrieved but the story of intrigue behind the voyage is a tale worthy of the numerous legends surrounding “the ship that couldn’t sink”.

In 1994 a company called RMS Titanic was given exclusive rights to retrieve goods from the liner and was the only salvage operator permitted to operate on the wreck. Its dives have recovered more than 6,000 items whose combined value is conservatively estimated at £40 million.

However the company’s profitability, to the frustration of its directors and major shareholders, has been hit by a court ruling that barred it from selling any of the items. The company could only make money by leasing the relics to exhibitions, but was under an obligation to make regular visits to the site.

In 1999, after boardroom coup by shareholders from the entertainment industry, the company tried to challenge the court decision. “We all know there are billions of dollars down there under the water. It’s like sitting on a goldmine,” said Joe Marsh, a former concert promoter who is the company’s major shareholder, in 1999.

After unsuccessfully fighting a series of legal battles for the right to sell its possessions, the board surprisingly passed a resolution in September 2002 under which it would have voluntarily surrendered its exclusive rights to the wreck. When the decision was announced publicly, it was expected to trigger a gold rush by competing salvage operators.

The first company to retrieve artefacts would be able to stake a claim to the exclusive salvage rights, unhindered by the prohibition against selling which had crippled RMS Titanic. This appears to have been the reason for the secret trip. However, in the event the mission appears to have been unsuccessful and ended in the seizure of their ship.

Bill Willard, an RMS Titanic shareholder who has compiled the dossier about the secret mission has now brought it to the attention of the American courts. He said: “The timing of this rogue expedition is too coincidental with RMS Titanic’s . . . announcement that it planned to relinquish salvor-in-possession status.

“Had the court allowed the company to reliquish said status on that day, a group planned, staffed and financed by company insiders was on site . . . with the confirmed objective of recovering artefacts.”

But if this was the plan, it all went wrong when the US authorities told RMS Titanic that it had no right to give up its status as salvor-in-posession – which the court viewed as its main asset – without putting the decision to shareholders.

The meeting was never held, the rights were not surrendered and in December 2002 the Northern Horizon slipped unnoticed into Liverpool. Until today, the story of the rogue mission has never been told.

Arnie Geller, the $330,000-a-year president of RMS Titanic, has denied any involvement by his company in the expedition. He claimed this week to have spent “tens of thousands of dollars” in a vain attempt to establish whether it took place and who was involved.

“We were only made aware of it as a rumour, but we went to great extremes to verify whether or not it did take place. To our knowledge we found no proof that it did,” he said. Mr Geller said he knew the names of only two people rumoured to have been involved and refused to say who they were. “When I confronted them, they told me it wasn’t true,” he said.

The president’s investigation somehow failed to discover that the leaders of the expediton were a Yorkshireman, Graham Jessop, a former salvage master of RMS Titanic, and Dik Barton, from Cumbria, a former British soldier who until May 2002 was the company’s vice president and director of operations. David Hill, who handled the mission’s financial planning, was until May 2002 the consultant in investor relations.

Mr Hill, a personal friend of Mr Geller, is a disbarred lawyer who was jailed for four months in 1985 after pleading guilty to money laundering.

The ship’s captain, Mr Goodyear, from Penistone, South Yorkshire, worked until April 2002 for a wholly-owned subsiduary of RMS Titanic. He told The Times this week that Mr Geller must have known about the expedition. Asked why he thought Mr Geller had claimed to have no knowledge of the trip, he said it was “probably because he didn’t want to get himself into trouble”.

He said: “If anyone, anywhere to do with the Titanic is on thin ice, it would be Arnie Geller.” Mr Goodyear said that those involved in the 2002 voyage had received legal advice that they were doing nothing illegal.

According to the documents lodged with the court, a sailor who was part of the crew has claimed that “we brought some good stuff up”, but one of the papers describes the mission as “unfruitful”.

Mr Barton was unwilling to discuss what he described as “a private, commercial event” and Mr Jessop has not responded to requests for an interview. Mr Hill claimed ignorance of the expedition.

Resting undisturbed in the first-class cargo hold are the prized possessions of society’s Edwardian elite:

A unique early 20th century copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam known as the Great Omar and valued at more than £1 million. Encased in a carved oak basket and en route to a New York dealer, the book’s binding was encrusted with 1,050 jewels and finished in 100 sq ft of gold leaf. It took two years to make and the cover featured rubies, amethysts and emeralds.

A rumoured shipment of diamonds which was being carried by two brothers from Switzerland to New York, worth £170 million

A red, 25-horsepower 1912 Renault touring car which was being shipped home by Billy Carter, a wealthy Philadelphia socialite travelling with his wife, two children, a maid, a chauffeur and 24 polo sticks. He later made a $5,000 insurance claim for his lost car. An early Bugatti is also supposed to have been loaded in the hold

The ship’s safes, several purser’s bags and their contents. One, stuffed with cash and jewellery, was recovered on an earlier expedition and is now one of the Titanic exhibits

Seventy-six cases of champagne and 50 cases of wine. Some bottles have previously been recovered

Possibly an amount of gold and silver bullion in the specie room in the bow

Tiffany’s had a case of china, and silver and gold goods aboard.

The American Express Corporation loaded 25 cases of merchandise
The contents of Captain Edward J. Smith’s cabin, complete with his bathtub.

And, according to RMS Titanic, the British Museum asked them to look out for a prototype helicopter which was on its way to America, and provided drawings to recognise it
 

Mike Bull

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Dec 23, 2000
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Oh boy...

Okay, we'll say that this is all rumours for now, but I well remember an old Channel 4 (UK) documentary on one of RMST's earlier salvage trips; Dik Barton was on that, and it was perfectly clear that he was only there for the dollars, even then.

I do hope all this is untrue.
 

Paul Rogers

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Nov 30, 2000
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This matches Eaton & Haas' speculations about the event, including the reasons for the expedition, as discussed at the BTS Convention.

I'd have an each-way bet on this being true.
 
Apr 29, 2004
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Actually, since I posted the Times snippet above, I've been out and bought the paper, and there is a whole page devoted to the alledged mission, complete with graphics and photographs, and to give some idea of its importance, it's on page 3, which is probably the single most important page after the front cover in terms of news and advertising rates.

Well worth 90p.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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If the would-be salvagers are counting on getting valuable items they are kidding themselves. Most of the things mentioned are only wild speculations, some from 1912 and others more recent. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is a particularly silly thing to expect to make money on. If it exists, nobody has the remotest idea where it is and it's just a soggy mess of paper and small semi-precious stones. It's somehow acquired an oak basket (casket ?) over the years. It's not on the cargo manifest and its only mentioned in 1912 newspaper reports. The Bugatti car sounds like a recent invention too. The helicopter sounds like another speculation, perhaps based on material that was going to an aero club in the US. If anybody wants to invest in this, they might also like to buy a bridge that I have for sale in Sydney. It's about to be replaced by a magnetic levitation device, which will transport traffic across the harbour without visible means of support.
 

Bill Willard

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Mar 24, 2001
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Paul,
During the 2000 Expedition, Sagalevitch stopped the Keldysh at least twice on the way home because a large amount of money owed to them by the company had not been paid. The company had to borrow $250,000 from a company in the Bahamas, SAGE Capital, and wire transfer the money to the account designated by the Russians. It was only after this transaction was complete did the artifacts transfer to the Explorer and everyone returned to home ports. A friend of Sagalevitch told me that he'll never do business with one particular person at the company again.

Michael,
Judge Rebecca Beach Smith is now the Judge in Norfolk over the Titanic case.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Of course there wasn't a prototype helicopter aboard Titanic, how silly. It was undoubtedly a prototype autogiro, as illustrated below by the great Bruce McCall in "Zany Afternoons". Perfected by 1920, it was used by New York socialites for autogiro jousting to while away the hours between luncheon and cocktails. Also illustrated in this wonderful book is the RMS Tyrranic, the biggest thing in the world, where gentlemen are requested to refrain from riding ponies through steerage after 8.00 pm. If you fancy buying this book it'll set you back a few bucks - luckily I got my copy in 1975!
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B

Brian Hawley

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A fantastic book Monica! I thought I was one of the few with a copy! Tank Polo looks even more fun than Autogiro Jousting.

Tyranic... "The right crowd and no crowding."

Brian
 
Jan 28, 2003
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I always fancied the Zeppelin Shoot ("they fell so much more gracefully than grouse").

Tyrannic ...."Mutton is taken, X deck".

I truly think, if you own this book, it is impossible to become really depressed!