The famous RMS Titanic now lies on the seabed, slowly disintegrating at a depth of 12,415 feet. It was only when Dr Robert D Ballard discovered the ship in 1985 that we learned that it had been split in two, and that salvaging the ship itself would be near impossible. However, thousands of artefacts have been recovered from the Titanic since that time.

RMS Titanic

Image by FGO Stuart (PD)

Although the ship was primarily a passenger liner, she also carried a substantial amount of cargo. Her designation as an RMS, or Royal Mail Ship, meant that she carried mail and parcels for the Royal Mail and for the US Postal Service. Also included in the Titanic’s cargo hull were coins, gold bullion and other valuable currencies, furniture, cars, and foods, herbs and spices. One point of interest is that the Titanic was carrying an especially large shipment of the South African herb known as Buchu, popular for making tea and known in Europe since the 1700s, where it was referred to as “Noble’s Tea”. The Titanic’s cargo manifest specified that the ship carried eight bales of the natural anti-oxidant herb on order and five bales for “holders of original bills of lading”.

Titanic coal

Image by Herr Satz (CC BY 2.0)

Among the items salvaged from the wreck are shoes, jewellery, reading glasses, pocket watches and crockery. The majority of these items are now owned by a company called RMS Titanic Inc, although some of the objects have found their way into the hands of private collectors. Among these are a few lumps of coal, which were sold by RMS Titanic Inc.

RMS Titanic Inc. organizes exhibits of the artefacts in its possession. Attendance is expensive, but the exhibits still draw large crowds.

Titanic watch

Image by Digiblue (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Before the discovery of the wreck in 1985, some objects from the Titanic found their way into maritime museums. Some were found on victims’ bodies, while others – such as wooden fragments and a few intact deck chairs – were plucked out of the sea by the Canadian search and rescue vessels that were sent to recover the victims’ bodies. One of the more moving objects to have been salvaged was a pocket watch retrieved from an unknown victim. It stopped at 02:28, shortly after the owner went into the water.

Some museums you can visit to see Titanic artefacts include the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the SeaCity Museum in Southampton, the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool and the Museum of the Titanic Historical Society in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Titanic Historical Society’s exhibit includes, among other things, a rivet removed from the ship’s hull before the ship sank, a restaurant menu, a square sample of carpet from the first-class stateroom and the life jacket of Madelaine Astor, a survivor of the Titanic and wife of millionaire and socialite JJ Astor, who didn’t make it off the ship.