- Last Updated: 11:50 AM, July 29, 2012
- Posted: 11:28 PM, July 28, 2012
Billionaire Paul Allen and his mega-yacht Octopus are embarking on a dramatic ocean expedition with the British Royal Navy after the Olympics wrap in London, Page Six has exclusively learned.
The Microsoft mogul is underwriting a search for a sunken bell that was on the HMS Hood, a battlecruiser downed in 1941 by German battleship Bismarck. The project to rescue the artifact from the largest British ship ever lost in battle, in which 1,415 perished, has been sanctioned by the British government.
The bell, if rescued, will go on display at a new exhibition hall at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, England, to open in 2014, we’re told. “There’s a very small window at this time of year for the operation,” due to weather and other conditions, said a source. But Allen’s “very hopeful they will be successful.”
The Hood sank in the freezing Denmark Strait, between Greenland and Iceland. For the mission, Allen is teaming with Blue Water Recoveries, the firm that located the Hood wreck in 2001. The massive brass bell is at a location away from the rest of the wreckage, we’re told.
A nautical source says, “The recovery of a ship’s bell has always been important. Bells have been used for centuries on ships for announcing time, and for safety, and are important in tradition of the sea. They are often used in memorials.”
It’s not the first time Allen has used the Octopus — which houses two helicopters, a remote-controlled submersible and a submarine — to search at sea: In April, he lent his boat to find a missing plane in the Pacific. The 414-foot yacht is currently moored at East London’s Canary Wharf. The Royal Navy is expected to announce the mission today.
“[Paul] is allowing . . . use of the Octopus free of charge for this effort, which will allow [the Royal Navy] to present the bell to the British people,” a rep for Allen told us. “This is a huge collaborative effort, and one we believe will result in a fitting memorial to the ship and the many men lost at sea.”Follow @PageSix