Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French maritime expert who has been on over 35 dives to the Titanic wreck site, is one of the five people aboard the submersible that has been missing since Sunday, according to his literary representative, Mathieu Johann.
Mr. Nargeolet, 77, is the director of underwater research for RMS Titanic, Inc., an American company that owns the salvage rights to the famous wreck and displays many of the artifacts at Titanic exhibitions. The company conducted eight research and recovery expeditions between 1987 and 2010, according to its website.
The dozens of dives Mr. Nargeolet has made to the wreck site include previous OceanGate expeditions on the Titan, the missing submersible. In 2022, he enabled the discovery of an “extraordinarily biodiverse abyssal ecosystem on a previously unknown basalt formation near the Titanic,” according to the company.
Mr. Nargeolet’s company, RMS Titanic, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Sunday, in a statement on Twitter, it expressed “heartfelt support to the Boston Coast Guard during their search and rescue mission” but made no mention of Mr. Nargeolet.
While Mr. Nargeolet was born in Chamonix, in the French Alps, he has devoted his career to the ocean. He was an amateur diver in his youth before joining the French Navy in 1964, according to a biography published on the website of the Cité de la Mer, an oceanography museum in Cherbourg, France, that has hosted exhibitions of objects salvaged from the wreck and that has collaborated with Mr. Nargeolet.
During two decades in the Navy, he was a mine-clearing diver, a deep-sea diver, and a submarine pilot. That experience led him to work for IFREMER, a publicly funded French maritime research institute, where he was in charge of its submarine exploration crafts during early expeditions to the Titanic wreck. His first dive to the Titanic was in July 1987, about two years after the wreck was discovered.
He described how the small team inside the craft was chatty until it reached the wreck. Then, he said, “for the next 10 minutes there wasn’t a sound in the submarine.”
“We didn’t know at that time that we would return several times, and that I would return as often as I have been able to,” he added.
In the interview, Mr. Nargeolet said the Titanic had captured public imagination not just because of James Cameron’s 1997 movie but because everyone found something to latch onto, whether the ship’s construction, the diverse passenger list, or the sinking itself.
“Once you’ve gotten your head into the Titanic, it’s hard to get it out,” he said.
Emma Bubola contributed reporting.