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France mourns loss of explorer Nargeolet in OceanGate tragedy

Paul-Henri Nargeolet
Paul-Henri Nargeolet Copyright Bebeto Matthews/AP
Copyright Bebeto Matthews/AP
By Philip Andrew Churm with AFP
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France has been expressing sadness at the death of veteran underwater explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet in the OceanGate tragedy

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As the tragedy of the OceanGate disaster resonates around the world, people in France have been mourning the death of underwater explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

Seventy-seven-year-old Nargeolet was regarded as one of the world's top experts in underwater exploration. 

He began his career as an officer in the French Navy, rising to commander of a deep-sea intervention submarine unit. 

From there he moved into maritime archaeology, piloting many dives to the Titanic from 1987.

In 1986 he became head of deep-sea intervention submarines at the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer). 

A year earlier, a team led by American scientist Robert Ballard, in cooperation with Ifremer, had found the wreck of the Titanic.

Nargeolet was director of underwater research for E/M Group and RMS Titanic Inc.; the company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic shipwreck.  In that capacity, he supervised the recovery of some 5,000 artefacts from the site of the wreck.

His pioneering work was a big influence on director James Cameron in preparation for the filming of 'Titanic.'  It was the beginning of a long relationship, with both men experts on the ill-fated ship. 

His enthusiasm appears to have been undimmed as he signed up for the fateful trip on the OceanGate sub. 

Colleagues explained that he would have been aware of the risks but would have been moved by an unquenchable thirst for further exploration.

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