The violin played by the bandleader of the Titanic as the doomed vessel sank was found on Friday.
According to British auction house Henry Aldridge & Son, extensive testing has confirmed that the instrument, discovered in 2006, is an authentic piece of Titanic folklore. Survivors of the disaster have claimed that the ship’s band, led by Wallace Hartley, continued to play their violins even as the ocean liner began to fill with water.
“It’s been a long haul,” auctioneer Andrew Aldridge told the Huffington Post. He admitted that the discovery had initially seemed “too good to be true.”
The discovery of the instrument was just the beginning. The violin has spent the last seven years undergoing painstaking testing, as officials from Oxford University and government scientists attempted to verify its authenticity. The waterlogged instrument is said to be “incredibly well-preserved,” escaping with two long cracks despite prolonged exposure to the Atlantic Ocean.
Hartley, the violin’s original owner, was one of 1,500 passengers to perish in the infamous Titanic disaster. Despite being deemed “unsinkable,” the massive passenger liner struck an iceberg and capsized during its maiden voyage. Some passengers had speculated that Hartley had floated away in the freezing waters with the violin case still strapped to his body. Others believed that the violin had ended up at the bottom of the ocean.
Henry Aldridge & Son caught a major break while researching the instrument with a Hartley biographer, discovering documents which proved that the instrument had been discovered on the bandleader’s person. According to the Huffington Post, the violin allegedly passed through the hands of Hartley’s widow, the Salvation Army, and a music teacher before ending up with the auction house.
The legendary violin is slated to go on display later this month, and is thought to be worth six figures. No word yet on whether Leonardo Dicaprio will be placing a bid.
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