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Jul 21 , 2000  
Monday July 17 2:23 PM ET
Titanic Mission Seeks to Enter Ship's Hull

CLEARWATER, Fla. (Reuters) - The Florida company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic is launching an expedition this week that will attempt for the first time to recover artifacts from inside the wrecked ocean liner.

``There is incalculable value down there and we are determined to recover as much as possible,'' RMS Titanic Inc chief executive Arnie Geller said in a statement.

The Clearwater-based company has made five salvage missions to the Titanic since the wreckage was discovered 2 1/2 miles beneath the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland in 1985.

Several thousand artifacts including pieces of the ship and personal items from passengers and crew members have been recovered and put on exhibit in several cities around the world. All of those items were recovered from a half mile field of debris outside the ship.

This expedition, which is scheduled to leave this week from Norfolk, Virginia, plans to use remote controlled cameras and vehicles to enter the ship's cargo holds and mail room to look for jewelry and other valuable items.

Dives are planned through August. The salvage ship will be joined by British and Russian ships in the mission.

``We do expect to yield a lot of high profile artifacts that will surely deteriorate if we don't protect them,'' Geller said. ''And our mission is to preserve the historic items we recover and, consistent with the company policy, no items will be auctioned.''

The only items the company has sold from the Titanic are tiny pieces of coal used to power the ship.

The Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ocean liner in the world when it was completed in 1912. It sank on its maiden voyage from Britain to New York when it hit an iceberg on April 14, 1912, killing 1,500 passengers and crew. About 750 others were rescued.

Interest in the Titanic exhibits increased after the 1997 movie about the disaster set box office records and won the Academy Award as the best film of the year.

The company's stock is traded on the U.S. over-the-counter market and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

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