I first met PH Nargeolet in 1996 on a Discovery Channel expedition to the Britannic, where we sea-trialed two acrylic-sphere-based submarines, “Jules” and “Jim”. In 1996 and 1998, we served together again on two expeditions to Titanic in the French submersible “Nautile.” Those experiences were life-transforming, forever altering the trajectory of my life and career. PH was my “big brother,” mentor, friend, and guide throughout. We remained close through many challenges and successes for a quarter of a century, contemplating collaboration on another Titanic documentary together just two weeks before his last voyage. I feel heartsick at his loss and offer my deep-felt condolences to his family and friends.
One of the most remarkable qualities of PH was how accomplished yet humble he was about his achievements and aptitudes. When we first met, he was near the pinnacle of his professional career. He had completed three decades of work as a Navy deep diver, underwater mine specialist, and submarine pilot, realizing some extraordinarily complex conquests. I’ve worked with many explorers over my career. Still, none have delivered more intricate and treacherous underwater solutions while at the same time choosing to forego the limelight, directing it toward others.
In addition to inventing a wide range of solutions for working at the bottom of the ocean, PH was behind the successful lift and recovery of the 17-ton piece of Titanic hull lying in the debris field at 13,000 feet, an unprecedented moon shot he delivered with unbridled enthusiasm and determination. He also conceived the system that connected the free-swimming Nautile submarine to a fiber optic cable at the Titanic wreck site enabling the crew and me to deliver a live broadcast from the wreck site into 23 million homes on a Discovery/NBC simulcast in 1998. These are just a few of PH’s considerable accomplishments in his insatiable quest to connect the world with the Titanic story. Steadfast was his commitment to honor and respect those who had perished on its maiden voyage and to serve posterity by unlocking the mysteries of her sinking so that we might learn and heal from the tragedy.
PH was a man of great integrity and honor—a compassionate and generous family man I admired and whose friendship I treasure. I feel blessed to have called him a friend and owe him a great debt, as do all the rarified explorers that have sought and will seek to illuminate the alien landscape of the deep. Smooth seas and following winds, my friend PH, you have left us all much too soon and heartbroken.