Five thousand items recovered from the Atlantic grave of the Titanic, from a 17-ton piece of the hull to china used to serve first-class passengers, will go on auction in New York a century after the liner sank.
The unprecedented collection will be sold as a single lot by Guernsey’s Auctioneers on April 11, 100 years after Titanic’s maiden voyage in the city where the doomed ship had been destined when it was holed by an iceberg off Newfoundland.
Guernsey’s described the auction as “historic,” saying it was “the first and only sale of objects that have been recovered from the wreck site of Titanic 2.5 miles (four kilometers) below the ocean’s surface.”
The auctioneers estimate the lot will sell for a whopping US$189 million.
The items, a handful of which went on display Thursday, are a sometimes ghostly reminder of the 1,500 people who perished when the supposedly unsinkable White Star liner, sailing out of Southampton, England, went down.
Arlen Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s, said the collection had to remain as a single lot to “perpetuate the memory of this great ship” and “so that future generations will always have the opportunity to see it.”
Included are everything from shaving kits to children’s toys, tobacco pipes, and the brass buttons on the smart navy blue uniforms worn by Captain Edward Smith and his officers.
Hints of the glamorous life on board abound, such as crystal decanters from the first-class cabins, a battered chandelier from the A la Carte Restaurant, silver platters and blue-and-gold porcelain dishes.
Remnants of the great ship’s working parts will also be on the auction block.
The compass monitored by watch officers in the wheelhouse is for sale, along with a running light, a trio of bronze whistles from a funnel, and a bell.
Among the most poignant objects is a well-preserved megaphone.
The auctioneers say it may have been the one used by the captain as he directed the evacuation into lifeboats and gave his final command: “Abandon ship.”
Alex Klingelhofer, the vice president of Titanic Collections and a conservator, said Titanic immediately gripped the world’s imagination as a “floating city” and a ship “of dreams and hopes.”
Carrying 2,200 people, it was at the time the largest moving object built.
When the ship sank, “what was a single tragic event has become one of the most significant event of the 20th century,” she said.
“It still resonates with people today.”
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.