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Titanic shipwreck expert with CT ties among 5 on missing submersible

Paul-Henri Nargeolet, director of a deep ocean research project dedicated to the Titanic, poses next to a miniature version of the sunken ship inside a new exhibition, at 'Paris Expo', on May 31, 2013, in Paris. Over a century after the sinking of the famous ship, a Titanic exhibition in Paris will open to public from June 1 to September 15, and promises to present "real objects, and real stories."
Joel Saget
/
AFP via Getty Images
Paul-Henri Nargeolet, director of a deep ocean research project dedicated to the Titanic, poses next to a miniature version of the sunken ship inside a new exhibition, at 'Paris Expo', on May 31, 2013, in Paris. Over a century after the sinking of the famous ship, a Titanic exhibition in Paris will open to public from June 1 to September 15, and promises to present "real objects, and real stories."

In a race against time, U.S. and Canadian rescue teams have been working since Monday to find the missing submersible vessel Titan and its five passengers, one of whom has ties to Connecticut.

One of the passengers is French Titanic expert and Paul-Henry Nargeolet, who's lived in Connecticut. The other four confirmed passengers have been listed as OceanGate founder Stockton Rush, Hamish Harding, Dubai-based British businessman and chairman of aircraft brokering company Action Aviation, as well as vice chairman of Engro Corporation Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood.

Nargeolet's first name has been listed two ways: Paul-Henry and Paul-Henri.

He had recently lived in Kent, a Connecticut town along the New York border. Neighbors in Kent told WTIC-TV, Fox61, that he sold his farm a year ago and moved to New York.

He’s the director of underwater research at Experiential Media Group (E/M Group) and RMS Titanic, Inc. According to his biography on the E/M Group website, Nargeolet led several expeditions to the Titanic, completed 37 submersible dives and helped recover 5,000 artifacts.

RMS Titanic issued a statement, describing Nargeolet, who they call "PH," as a "precious member" of the company.

"We are devastated with the news, but remain steadfast in our hope for a safe rescue for all," president Jessica Sanders said. "PH is more than a colleague, he is a friend. No one has more experience at the wreck site than PH, and no one has a better chance of navigating through equipment failures than he does. We remain hopeful."

Nargeolet retired from the French Navy in 1986 and joined the French Institute for Research and Exploitation of Sea, where he led the first recovery expedition to the Titanic wreck in 1987.

He has lived in Greenwich, media reports indicate.

Nargeolet talked with Greenwich Time in 2012. He’s met families of survivors that had mixed emotions about his interest in preserving Titanic, the newspaper reported.

"One woman told me, `I think what you are doing is great,'" Nargeolet told the newspaper. "`By the way, my mother forgot her necklace on the side table of the cabin. Can you bring it back?'"

The Kent Library Association lists Nargeolet as a member.

About Titan

Titan is one of three five-person submersibles owned and operated by research and exploration company OceanGate. The vessel lost contact with its mother ship, Canadian research vessel Polar Prince, an hour and 45 minutes into its trip to the RMS Titanic shipwreck. Titan is a submersible vessel, which means that unlike a submarine, it does not have enough power to launch and recover itself.

Each ticket cost $250,000 for an eight-day trip, which included underwater excursions to the wreck. The remains of the Titanic shipwreck sit in the North Atlantic Ocean about 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland at a depth of 12,500 feet, or 3,800 meters.

About the search

The Boston Coast Guard posted on Twitter early Wednesday morning that a Canadian aircraft “detected underwater noises in the search area” but yielded no results.

According to First Coast Guard District response coordinator Capt. Jamie Frederick during a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, remotely operated vehicles (or ROVs) will continue searching for the source of these noises.

This story has been updated with additional details on where Nargeolet has lived.

Kelsey Goldbach is a Digital Media Intern with Connecticut Public.

She is a fourth year student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Journalism at the University of Southern California. Recently, Kelsey was a part of the Dow Jones News Fund Digital Intern Class of 2023. She is a Connecticut native and spends her summers in Waterbury.

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