Paul-Henri Nargolet is the director of the underwater research program on the wreck of the Titanic. In 1993, he was the first to bring to the surface 800 pieces of ocean liner that sank on April 14, 1912 after hitting an iceberg 600 km off the coast of Newfoundland.
This Wednesday, April 6, 2022, Paul Henri Nargolet publishes In the depths of the Titanic Published by HarperCollins.
franceinfo: The Titanic has been an integral part of your life for over 35 years. It is a beautiful love story, love at first sight. How do you define this relationship that you have with the Titanic?
Paul Henri Nargolet: There was a great chance that I wasn’t really looking for it, but when someone made me an offer one day, I thought to myself: There, I can’t miss that one. We must not let this pass.
Tell this story through your book: In the depths of the Titanic. It was complicated at first, because we had to face those opponents, those who said that you would defile the memory of those who disappeared during this tragedy, more than 1,500 passengers.
Yes, there was an argument from the start with someone who did it in a completely dishonest way. And he wanted to do the same, but since it was forbidden to him, he said: “If I can’t do it, it’s not a good idea to do itI, I am respectful. In my book, I say that I met two survivors on the same day, one of them in the morning, he said to me:Me, I don’t like what you’re doing because my dad died on the wreck, I don’t like him, you have to leave him aloneIn the afternoon of the same day, I met another survivor who told me:I, I love what you do and besides, my mother forgot her pearl necklace on the bedside table. Can you get it?“Those are two ways of looking at things, they are different.
My opinion is it’s best to bring stuff as it’s the memory of the boat, and that’s what people want to see. It is important for future generations to have something of the Titanic. Thanks to these things, we find the story of people we never talked about. Because, what has been highlighted so often? Celebrities at that time were millionaires or billionaires at that time. But the stories of immigrants who wanted a better life in the United States were forgotten. Every day, we pull the string and then come up with a story.
I spent 22 years in the French Navy as an officer specializing in demining, diving and deep underwater intervention. Was it important to be able to unite your passions, namely to drive submarines, recover wrecks and try to unravel their secrets?
Yes, because when divers want to get things back for the first time, it’s a bit like divers’ obsession. It’s exciting to have a target when diving.
“I’ve always been fascinated by wrecks since I was little.”Paul Henri Nargolet
I had a portable projector with a little movie on it called Fremus fish for treasureI’ve always been fascinated by it, and it’s true that when I could combine business with pleasure, doing both things at the same time, I went for it.
When we open this book, we discover with as much emotion as you, the moment you discover Titanic for the first time. Everything is empty around it. Nothing is touched. Nothing was damaged. No one has yet revealed the secrets of this boat, whose depth is 3800 meters. These feelings, will you keep them for the rest of your life?
Yeah, I’ll remember because the first dive, we did it when we weren’t supposed to because the contracts weren’t signed, but we were there. I said to myself: If they never sign, we are there, should at least dive in. Thus we dived, and in the evening we received a telex from the administration of Afrimer, saying: “Contract signed you can dive“.
What touched you the most when you saw the bow of the boat? By the way, that’s what you’re saying, you’ve come to the right side.
We got to the so-called prow, which is the best preserved part of the boat, because it is the place a little narrower, and still solid, where you can see the chains of anchors, the winches. It is shiny because it is polished by current.
“In the submarine, which first got out on the wreck of the Titanic, for a while, about ten minutes, we didn’t utter a word.”Pau Henri Nargolet
Everything we read and learned suddenly came back to his face. We had a contract to do 12 dives, we did 32. We didn’t skimp!
You are 76 years old today and still very passionate?
As long as you are awake and offered to do so, I see no reason not to continue. This would be a shame.