ATHENS, Greece — A member of a National Geographic team exploring the wreckage of Britannic, the Titanic’s sister ship, in the Aegean Sea died of decompression sickness Sunday, the Merchant Marine Ministry said.
Carl Spencer, 37, was rushed to the Athens Naval Hospital in the afternoon after diving to film the wreckage of the Britannic, four miles (6 kilometers) off the island of Kea, southeast of Athens, the ministry said.
Spencer, who showed symptoms of the illness widely known as “the bends,” had been aboard the Belgian-owned research vessel CDT Fourcault. He was flown to the hospital by helicopter but was unconscious upon arrival.
His team was to spend nine days doing an internal and external analysis of the wreckage.
Spencer had led a similar expedition to the Britannic in 2003.
The technical diver also had taken part in an exploration of the Titanic wreckage as part of a Discovery Channel expedition led by filmmaker James Cameron, who directed the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.”
Following the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912, the hull of the 53,000-ton Britannic was redesigned and it was launched on Feb. 26, 1914.
It was never used as a commercial trans-Atlantic liner because of World War I. It was requisitioned as a hospital ship in November 1915 and sent to the Middle East and Aegean fronts.
On its sixth trip, on its way to pick up wounded soldiers from the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, it was sunk on Nov. 21, 1916. Of the 1,066 passengers aboard, 30 died.
For years, the cause of Britannic’s sinking – whether by a torpedo or a mine – was unclear.
Spencer’s 2003 expedition provided conclusive evidence of a single mine blast