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Vaseline can raise the Titanic

LONDON -- Vaseline -- about 180,000 tons of it -- is just the stuff to raise the Titanic from the bottom of the North Atlantic, says one salvage expert. But another suggests using liquid nitrogen to make a giant iceberg of the 73-year-old wreck.

The 46,000-ton Titanic was found by an American-French expedition last week about 2 miles deep in the North Atlantic some 375 miles south of Newfoundland. Many salvagers have ruled out raising the vessel.

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But The Sunday Mirror newspaper reported a British underwater salvage expert is proposing raising the liner with 180,000 tons of Vaseline.

Tony Wakefield, a salvage engineer with a company in Stamford, has proposed pumping Vaseline petroleum jelly into polyester bags placed in the hull of the wreck, the Mirror said.

He told the newspaper the Vaseline would harden, making the vessel buoyant.

Under Wakefield's plan, the liner would be towed underwater -- at a depth of 200 feet -- to prevent corrosion.

The Sunday Times, giving a rundown on 'Jules Verne schemes' to raise the ship, said another proposal would use liquid nitrogen to freeze the Titanic into a 'giant iceberg' to buoy it to the surface.

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Under that plan, wire mesh would be placed around the ship and liquid nitrogen pumped through.

But British salvager John Pierce, who helped recover artifacts three years ago from the wreck of the Lusitania in 340 feet of water off the Irish coast, said a system of inflatable hydrogen-filled bags could raise the Titanic, which hit an iceberg and sank 73 years ago.

'This operation will represent a big step forward for the prestige of British science,' he said. 'I don't intend to get egg on my face.'

The team that discovered the Titanic wants it preserved where it is as a maritime memorial to the 1,513 people who died when the vessel sank on its maiden voyage July 15, 1912.

Captain Andrew Marshall, an official of the British Salvage Association, said any salvage operation beyond a depth of 250 feet -- the operating threshold for divers -- 'is fraught with extreme technical difficulties.'

He said the deepest salvage operation ever attempted was a 1974 project sponsored by the CIA and millionaire Howard Hughes to raise a Soviet submarine from a depth of 16,600 feet in the Pacific. The attempt failed.

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