Titanic Telegram and Other Mementos Go on Auction
NEW YORK --Experts at Christies' Auction House said they expected a big turnout of traditional collectors of Titanic memorabilia along with new collectors whose interest in the disaster has been heightened by the hugely successful movie "Titanic."
"I have to think though that in the end it's going to go to a serious long term collector who has been waiting for years for a document like this to come up," Jame Zemaitis of Christie's said yesterday as the sale items opened for public viewing. "We expect it to perform very, very strongly, but it's always a gamble, and you don't know until the hammer falls."
The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic on the moonless night of April 14, 1912, when it was halfway to it's New York destination on it's maiden voyage, from Southampton, England, The White Star Line ship struck an iceberg and went down within three hours, killing 1523 of the 2228 passengers and crew members aboard.
The tragedy became a symbol of modern arrogance--the ship had been declared unsinkable--and some of the richest and most powerful people of the day went town with it.
Christie's East auction house said the sale included four lots of Titanic historical documents and marconi signals, the wireless telegraph messages exchanged between vessels.
Telegraph operators aboard ships in the area alerted one another of potentially dangerous iceberg conditions.
The messages were printed after being translated from Morse code by operators who gave them to the captain or crew.
Mr. Zemaitis said that the messages at auction included the so-called "ice messages"--warnings sent from other ships--and Titanic's frequent replies that she was steaming through clear weather and sailing smoothly.
The other group of messages on sale were recieved by Titanic's sister ship, Olympic, including the stunning words, "We have struck an iceberg" and later, "We are putting the passengers off in small boats." Olympic was more than 500 nautical miles away, too far to help.
The disaster has been recounted in books, a musical, a television documentary, and now a Hollywood movie that was nominated on Tuesday for 14 Academy Awards.
Christie's said that the neatly typed and printed telegraph messages, with details of ice conditions, distress signals, and the rescue operations, were estimated to sel for $1000 to $6500. It said the documents came from private sources.
The auction house's second annual maritime sale also featured paintings, ship models and compasses.
A company called RMS Titanic, Inc. keeps track of relics from the vessel. It owns all of the more than 5000 objects that have been recovered from the wreck in its resting place two and a half miles under the ocean since the site's discovery in 1985.
From The New York Times, Feb. 14, 1998.
Copyright © 1998 by the Creators of Lost Liners.