£122m Titanic treasure trove
The largest collection of artefacts salvaged from the Titanic is to be put up for auction next year - the 100th anniversary of the world's most famous shipwreck.
More than 5,500 items, including fine china, ship fittings and portions of hull that were recovered from the ocean liner, have an estimated value of £122m and will be sold as a single lot.
The Titanic treasures were amassed during seven trips to the wreck, which rests about two-and-a-half miles below the ocean in the North Atlantic.
The auction is scheduled for April 1 by Guernsey's, a New York City auction house - but the results of the auction will not be announced until April 15, the date the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage after striking an iceberg a century ago.
The auction is subject to approval by a federal judge in Virginia whose jurisdiction has given oversight to legal issues governing the salvage of the Titanic for years.
US district judge Rebecca Beach Smith has ruled that official salvage company RMS Titanic has title to the artefacts and is entitled to full compensation for them.
Judge 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 US government, including a prohibition against selling the collection piecemeal.
The conditions also require RMS to make the artefacts available "to present and future generations for public display and exhibition, historical review, scientific and scholarly research, and educational purposes".
Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions, parent company of RMS Titanic, has been displaying the Titanic artefacts in exhibitions around the world.
It acknowledged that any future owner of the Titanic treasures must abide by the covenants and conditions.