Douglas John Faulkner-Woolley says he owns the Titanic, and he’s not kidding.
Born in Liverpool in 1936, Faulkner-Woolley got hooked on the history of the Titanic and the idea of raising her when he learned that two of his great-aunts, Sally and Ellen, had booked passage on the Titanic but canceled because of a dark premonition. Their cancelations came too late for them to retrieve their luggage, however, and their luggage ended up going down with the ship.
His claim to the wreckage and its contents 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. Faulkner-Woolley told me the following: “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 see Tug & OSV magazine, February 2012 edition, page 11)
Also, there has been confusion about Faulkner-Woolley’s plans to use silicon vis a vis the recovery of the wreck. He tells me, “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.”
Regardless of the discovery of the Titanic by Dr. Ballard and IFREMER in 1985 and the subsequent explorations of the wreckage, Faulkner-Woolley still considers the letter to be valid legal confirmation of his ownership. He’s currently trying to collect enough money to raise her. To him, just because he hasn’t raised her yet doesn’t mean he forfeits his claimed owner’s right to do so.
Faulkner-Woolley also is on record as challenging Dr. Ballard’s claim to be the first to locate the Titanic, as well as challenging RMS Titanic, Inc.’s court-sanctioned claim to be salvor-in-possession of the Titanic and everything found in her debris field. He claims that the Hecate, a British Royal Navy ship, was the first to find the Titanic in the 1970s, but the discovery was kept secret.
In his book, Titanic: One Man’s Dream: Douglas John Faulkner-Woolley: His Claims on Britain’s Two Most Famous Liners (Seawise Publication)Faulkner-Woolley defends his claims by providing extracts from British maritime laws that he claims support his legal owner-ship. Faulkner-Woolley’s own words are in parentheses:
✓ “Finding an object does not make it the property of the finder . . .”
✓ “The rights to items of the wreck lie firstly with the owner.” (These rights have been handed to D. J. Woolley.)
✓ “Salvors should not assume a wreck has no owner.”
✓ “Not every finder (Grimm, Ballard and later finders) necessarily has salvage rights. Nor does the raising of the items confer any rights to a site.” (D. J. W. made his claims on the Titanic . . . in accordance to the law. The U.S. courts have no bearing in these matters and the claims of the Americans are not valid.)
✓ “Anyone who interferes with a designated site without a license is guilty of an offense.”
No one can say with certainty whether Faulkner-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. One thing is certain: If Faulkner-Woolley’s plans come to fruition, and the Titanic ends up in a tourist museum in England, the legal battles among Faulkner-Woolley, his company, his successors, and RMS Titanic, Inc., will rage on for ages.
1. Welcome, Douglas, to my “On the Titanic” blog. Would you please explain to our readers 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.
2. Your company is called Seawise. Could you explain how it started and its purpose?
Titanic Salvage Company was set up in 1966 for the purpose to salvage the Titanic. In 1972, the plan was amended in the Channel Islands by Salvors International Limited, specifically, Captain Kingsley, Brian Hamilton and company/project manager Phillip Slade. Seawise Salvage Company was set up up by myself with support from Sir James Goldsmith and a company called “Aquatech Limited.” “Seawise University (QE1)” is the pilot project in preparation for the salvaging of the Titanic.
3. 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, as outlined in my book. 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.
4. 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.
5. What is your typical day like? How much time do you put into your Titanic efforts?
Most of my day is spent planning future salvaging prospects with help from my project manager Gary Smith and others involved in my team.
6. Who can you list as supporters of you and your project and how have these people been of help and service to you?
The list is quite long and I am honored to have the support of the following:
· Titan Salvage Company
· Marint’s (Thames Ditton )
· Acuatech Diving
· Wakefield and Inberg (Tony Wakefield) Salvage
· Robin Gardiner (author of The Great Titanic Conspiracy)
· Barrie Kriel (film producer, Streetcar Moving Pictures, South Africa)
· members of my team (Gary Smith, Steven Bilsby)
· Robert MacDougall (author of the report Sollis and the HMS Hecate 1977/78 survey, Seawise and Titanic and Fathom Line Ltd.
· Yet-Tech Marine (diving)
· Rajesh Khadka (Nepal)
· Arjun Shrestha ( Nepal)
· Nabin Shrestha ( Nepal)
· Ibram Hussein (Barrister)
· Tony Bissett
· press reporters (Alan Douglas, Tony Elliott, Tony Bugay, Hong Kong)
· additional support:
o Lord Graham of Edmonton
o Senator Le-main
o Dr. Ambrus Balas and Mr Lasold Szaszko( Budapest)
o Gerd Treuhafi (German press reporter)
7. 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.
8. How did you get interested in the Titanic?
I became interested when my Grandfather told me the story of my two great Aunts. You have put that in Titanic for Dummies, but there is also a little bit more. There was seen a ship with a red light at an angle of 45 degrees northwest saw. It was understood this was a Royal Navy ship. There was also another ship about 10 miles east of the position. I think it was called Antinius. It is understood that this ship did rescue some people, including Captain Smith. I will send you his story shortly or maybe Robin Gardiner would like to do that. You may be surprised.
9. Who do you personally feel is to blame for the sinking of the Titanic? Ismay? Smith? Andrews? Lord?
I blame both Captain Smith and Bruce Ismay in equal measure, as the fatal telegram was not properly dealt with. There was pack ice in the area and, as such, the ship should have stopped and Captain Smith should have known that. I believe that he was being pushed on by Bruce Ismay to get a speed record. Also, Captain Lord has been wrongly accused for not going to help. He did the correct thing by staying where he was and, not only that, between him and the Titanic was a Norwegian fishing smack. Captain Lord was 30 miles away and to follow this, there were no actual distress signals at that time. Ships used to pass one another and they would send flares up as a greeting or just to say “we are having a party.” The rest of this is contained in the book The Great Titanic Conspiracy by Robin Gardiner.
10. What would you like to say to people who believe the Titanic should be left alone?
People consider the Titanic as a “grave site.” This is not so, because after 75 years, a grave site is no longer a grave site. Take the archeologists in Egypt, for example. The pyramids are broken into and the Egyptian Mummies are exhumed for all to see in museums all over the world.
11. 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. For the rest of this, please see page 105 in my book, that will give you the rest of my story. I hope this is helpful.
Thank you for your insights and for talking to me for “On the Titanic.”
George Tulloch's Letter to Douglas Woolley
One high-profile person in the Titanic community who was supportive of Douglas Woolley was the late George Tulloch, founder of RMS Titanic. In 1995 he sent Douglas Woolley the following letter:
It was nice to chat with you today.
As promised, we will be delighted as the right thing to do to present your story before the people of the world as we move forward with the exhibition.
In that effort in the six months ahead we should arrange a meeting between yourself and the proposed exhibition designers in London.
I finally must say the “Mail” article was proof of the worst side of journalism. Indeed, “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has tied its shoes,” as Mark Twain said. And, as Lincoln said, “the truth is the best defense.”
Warm regards for the holidays,
© Stephen Spignesi 2012. All rights reserved. Material from The Titanic for Dummies © Stephen Spignesi 2012, John Wiley & Sons. Used with permission.