Titanic's £165m relics 'belong in Belfast' - James Cameron
Film director in rescue bid for salvaged 5,500 items
Titanic director James Cameron has launched a secret £165m bid to rescue salvaged artefacts from the world-famous liner and put them on display in Belfast.
The Oscar-winning movie maker is trying to rescue 5,500 artefacts valued in the past at $214m after their owner was declared bankrupt.
RMS Titanic Inc, which owns the salvage rights to the wreck, has scooped up thousands of items from the wreck site on the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean.
Its parent company, US-based Premier Exhibitions, last week revealed that it was putting its treasures and future salvaging rights up for sale. The company is £9m in debt. Since the bankruptcy news broke, it has been revealed that Mr Cameron - whose 1997 film is the second highest-grossing box-office hit of all time - has teamed up with Dr Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck, to return the artefacts to Belfast, where the Titanic was built at the Harland & Wolff shipyard.
Dr Ballard, who found the wreckage in 1985, told a hearing in Norfolk, Virginia, last week that he had been in discussions with Mr Cameron, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the Royal Geographical Society to exhibit the artefacts at a museum in Belfast's Titanic Quarter.
The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg in April 1912.
More than 1,500 of the 2,224 passengers on board died in the disaster, which occurred during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
Since the company was awarded exclusive salvage rights in 1987, RMS Titanic Inc has arranged numerous dives to recover the wreck's treasures - valued in the past at $214m - 12,500ft beneath the surface.
They range from a massive 15-tonne portion of the ship's hull that was put on display at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, to a child's marble measuring half an inch in diameter.
Oceanographer Dr David Gallo, who led a 2010 expedition to map the wreck site, went to see the artefacts last week.
"Every artefact, every letter and photo, they all tell a story. It is time these objects go on display for the world to see and the most fitting place for that is the UK, where the Titanic was born," he said.
Dave Vermillion of RMS Titanic Inc said the company is committed to safeguarding the artefacts and wreck site for future generations.
"This is a global search to find a suitable buyer. We are looking for someone to honour and celebrate the legacy of the Titanic," he said.
"The most important thing is to find someone with the resources to preserve and honour the legacy of those who perished on the ship," he said.