Plundering the Titanic

ByABC News
October 30, 2006, 1:18 PM

Oct. 30, 2006 — -- Picture this. It is 11:40 p.m., April 14, 1912.

You are one of the 1,523 people about to perish on the brand-new "unsinkable" Titanic, but you don't know it yet. Perhaps you are one of those having dinner, or lounging in a deck chair, when someone yells out, "Iceberg. Right ahead."

As the first lifeboat was lowered at 12:40 a.m. on April 15, you probably think there is nothing more precious in this world than your body. You would be wrong.

No one is going to pay much for your bones in that watery grave, but the furniture you sat on, the silverware you used, and even the window you may have tried to escape through, will eventually be morbid collector's items, which will make some people a whole lot of money.

"Searching the wreckage is big business, considering a life jacket of cork and fabric sold for £43,000 [$77,000] last month," BBC producer Ian Cundall said to ABC News.

Cundall, whose TV documentary "Inside Out" explores the illegal trade in Titanic memorabilia, says many of the plundered items are so ordinary that you would never think of them as priceless.

"It's something that you couldn't even put in a frame, and something you wouldn't want on the wall," he said.

He also tells ABC News that "a deck chair would sell for £100,000 [$190,000], and a copy of the dinner menu from the Titanic's last night went for $500,000. The prices are just stupendous."

The last British survivor of the Titanic disaster condemned black-market dealers today, after it emerged that relics from the world-famous shipwreck were up for sale.

Millvina Dean, 94, of Hampshire, England, who was just an infant when the ship went down, said the sale of items from the Titanic was "awfully wrong" and showed the greed of those involved.

"My father [who died on the ship] is still on there," she said to ABC News. "It's awfully wrong to take things especially from a ship where so many people perished. I don't suppose these people thought of that. They just thought of the money."