Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Key that could have saved the Titanic sells

A tiny key that might have helped prevent the Belfast-built Titanic sinking has fetched £90,000 at auction. The key, with the tag "Crows Nest Telephone Titanic" opened the binoculars store, but was not on the ship when it sailed from Southampton.

It was in the pocket of an officer transferred off the vessel days before its maiden voyage. He forgot to hand it to his replacement as he left. As a result lookouts had to rely on the naked eye. Titanic sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 15 April 1912 with the loss of 1,522 lives.

Auctioneer Henry Aldridge said the key was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder who received applause as the hammer went down. He said bidding for the key at the sale in Devizes, Wiltshire, was fierce.

"We had several telephone bidders as well as people in the auction room and the gentleman who was successful was very happy. But I can tell you the man he outbid was not, he was very disappointed."

Other items in the sale included a rare launch ticket from Belfast which fetched £32,000 and a postcard sent home by a passenger on-board which sold for £17,000.

Second officer David Blair held the key during the short journey from Belfast, where Titanic was built, to the south coast. One of the lookouts on the Titanic told an inquiry into the sinking that with the binoculars the Titanic might have been able to dodge the iceberg.

On the difference the binoculars might have made, lookout Fred Fleet said: "Well, enough to get out of the way."

Mr Blair was disappointed to be moved off the ship at Southampton, but the transfer saved his life. He kept the key as a memento.

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