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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Titanic Lift Has Critics Up in Arms

NEW YORK -- The Titanic's maiden voyage, abruptly interrupted by an iceberg 84 years ago, could end in New York Harbor within a fortnight.

Well, sort of. On Wednesday, George Tulloch, former BMW dealer and "salvor in possession" of the Titanic's remains, plans to haul a 12-metric ton chunk of the ship from its watery grave 4 kilometers beneath the Atlantic. If all goes as planned, he and the chunk will be steaming into New York on Sept. 1.

Critics call Tulloch's efforts a grave-robbing publicity stunt, but only Neptune can stop him. Tulloch's company, R.M.S. Titanic Inc., has legal rights to the wreck and has retrieved 4,000 artifacts from it since 1987.

Robert Ballard, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist who found the Titanic in 1985 with help from the Navy and the French government's oceanographic agency, branded Tulloch's expedition "destructive" and "sad."

"It is as if a fleet of tractors had plowed the battlefield of Gettysburg," Ballard said in a statement.

Two cruise ships, charging thousands of dollars per cabin, will come alongside the expedition's research vessels next week as they attempt to lift a section of the Titanic's hull to the surface. Three survivors of the April 14, 1912 shipwreck will be present, as will actor Burt Reynolds and former astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.

Titanic buffs can purchase coal lifted from the doomed ship's remains for $25 a lump. Included are a brass plaque inscribed with the purchaser's name and a certificate of authenticity signed by Tulloch. The coal comes in an attractive ebony-finished display case with a Plexiglas protective cover.

That's the sort of thing that suggests Tulloch cares more about making money than preserving history, said Karen Kamuda, vice president of the Titanic Historical Society in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.

More than 1,500 people died when the 265-meter Titanic went down after hitting an iceberg about 640 kilometers south of Newfoundland. Kamuda argues that Tulloch's efforts are the equivalent of selling tickets to the TWA Flight 800 recovery efforts off Long Island.

"Because a few generations have passed, why is a cruise now respectable?" Kamuda asked.

The Discovery Channel paid R.M.S. Titanic $3 million for exclusive rights to film and photograph the recovery of the hull section, as well as the month-long expedition that led up to it. In the last few weeks, the French submersible Nautile has brought up serving dishes, metal scraps and bottles of Bass Ale.

About 12,000 bottles of Bass were thought to have gone down with the Titanic, and the 10 winners of the Bass Ale Voyage to the Titanic sweepstakes were there to see a 1912 vintage of their favorite brew brought to the surface.