PARIS (AP) _ The crew searching for treasure from the Titanic made its first dive Saturday in a small submarine that plunged 2 1/2 miles to the ocean floor accompanied by a robot named Robin.
High winds frustrated attempts to dive on Friday, but the weather improved enough Saturday to allow divers to begin a general survey proceeding the retrieval of artifacts, said Yves Cornet, spokesman for Taurus International.
The mini-sub Nautile, carrying a crew of three, was to explore the site 350 miles off Newfoundland.
Cornet said salvagers were searching for the bow of the Titanic, which has never been found since the ship sank 75 years ago. It is believed to be as far as one or two miles from the main portion of the wreck, he said.
They will be floating over a 2 1/2 -mile-wide debris field around the Titanic shown in previous surveys to be littered with silver trays, china cups and other artifacts.
The Nautile mini-sub is equipped with two arms capable of picking up objects smaller than teacups and larger than safes. It is attached by a 26- foot umbilical cord to the 176-pound robot, Robin.
Robin has lights and three cameras encased in titanium-and-steel cases for shooting inside the Titanic. Another camera will be carried by a member of the mini-sub crew.
The $2.5 million expedition is being conducted by the French Institute for Research and Exploitation of the Sea and underwritten by a group of international investors operating as the British-registered Ocean Research Exploration Ltd. Taurus International negotiated the contract.
The wreck of the Titanic was discovered Sept. 1, 1985, after years of speculation on its whereabouts, by the French institute in partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.
Officials at Woods Hole, which mounted a second research expedition to the Titanic last summer, have said they won’t retrieve artifacts and criticized the current French expedition.
U.S. officials and others want the site to be designated a memorial to the 1,513 people who drowned when the Titanic struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank on April 14-15, 1912.
Many of those traveling from Southampton, England, to New York were wealthy, and salvagers hope to find a fabled strongbox said to contain a fortune in jewels.
Cornet said nothing will be retrieved from inside the wreck, because such an operation would be too dangerous.
″Everytime a sub goes so far undersea it is dangerous,″ Cornet said. ″But if they don’t try to go too close to the wreck, it should not be a problem.″