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Is Douglas Woolley the Real Owner of the Titanic?

Douglas Woolley says he owns the Titanic, and he’s not kidding. His claim to the wreckage is based on a late-1960s ruling by a British court and the British Board of Trade that awarded him ownership of the Titanic.

There has been conflicting information on the web about whether or not conditions were attached to this ownership award. Woolley said in an interview with The Titanic For Dummies author Stephen Spignesi, “People will get the wrong idea as to the ‘timeline’ in regards to my salvage rights. I do not have to locate the Titanic first and then salvage the Titanic. There is no time limit on the salvage rights and there are no conditions attached.”

Also, there has been confusion about Woolley’s plans to use silicon vis a vis the recovery of the wreck. He told Spignesi, “The silicon is meant only to help further rust forming, as the ship will be lifted above water and dried. It has nothing to do with holding the ship together. It is only to be used as a preservative.”

No one can say with certainty whether Woolley’s claims will bear fruit. He continues to recruit investors for his company and collect money to raise the Titanic. RMS Titanic, Inc., meanwhile, continues to retrieve artifacts and display them in Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

Welcome, Douglas, to dummies.com. Would you please explain to our visitors the reason you plan to raise the Titanic?

I plan on raising it for historical reasons and preserve and to show respect to the lives lost. Also, I would like to see it become a tourist attraction with a chapel placed inside the wreck.

Could you talk about why you believe you can rightfully claim ownership of the Titanic wreck?

The claims were made in accordance with UK Maritime Law. The Titanic was fully a UK British ship and registered in Liverpool UK. The share transfer to financier J. P. Morgan was only held in trust and, as such, America neither had, nor has legal jurisdiction. My claims were prior claims and Morgan passed all the shares back to the company in Liverpool in 1912 and later Cunard took the company over to become Cunard White Star. Cunard disclaimed titles to the Titanic. This was the beginning of my claim.

There has been a great deal of media coverage about you and your project. What has been the response to this public attention?

The media coverage had resulted in top scientists from Budapest helping with the method to lift the Titanic and the QE1 (Seawise University). This has made the public realize who I am and what I plan to do.

What are your long-term plans for the wreck?

Long term I hope to bring the Titanic and the QE1 to Liverpool to be placed in dry dock and semi-restored to become a tourist attraction and memorial to all the lives lost and to those affected by the disaster.

Are you pro-salvaging of artifacts or anti-salvaging of artifacts, and why?

I am not pro-salvaging. The reasons why include the fact that all of the effects have been removed without legal consent, only for vast profit. It is my intent that anything from both ships is not sold but kept intact with the ships.

There was a telemeter that I know was attached on the Titanic and was removed by cutting and put on show at the Titanic Exhibition in London. Bollards have been removed and a big part of the hull was illegally removed. Captain Smith’s private quarters were smashed open. I was at an exhibition where a piece of coal was going to be smashed and sold as if it came from the Titanic.

Not all is what it seems. Just one point: people write about the Titanic as though they were there. I don’t, as I don’t profess to know all the facts, because I was not there. The nearest film to the story was not the James Cameron version, it was A Night to Remember, but even that had one mistake in it: The ship was not launched in the normal way. No White Star ship at that time was ever launched with a bottle of champagne. There were no words, just a pulling of a lever. Just to remind you, the White Star Line was originally meant for the Australian run.

See the “On the Titanic” blog at Stephen Spignesi’s website for an expanded version of this interview, including an exclusive letter to Douglas Woolley from the late George Tulloch, founder of RMS Titanic.

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