Aussie billionaire launches plans for Titanic replica

In this rendering provided by Blue Star Line, the Titanic II is shown cruising at sea. The ship, which Australian billionaire Clive Palmer is planning to build in China, is scheduled to sail in 2016. Palmer said his ambitious plans to launch a copy of the Titanic and sail her across the Atlantic would be a tribute to those who built and backed the original. (AP Photo/Blue Star Line)

NEW YORK An Australian billionaire says he wants to build a new version of the Titanic that could set sail in 2016.

Clive Palmer unveiled blueprints for the famously doomed ship's namesake Tuesday at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York.

A rendering of the Titanic II, which an Australian billionaire is planning to build and set sail in 2016. AP Photo/Blue Star Line

'Titanic II' will be updated with air conditioning and some other modern amenities, but will otherwise mostly be a faithful reconstruction of the original ship.

Palmer said 40,000 people have expressed interest in tickets for the maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York, expected in 2016. He said 16 people had offered to pay more than $750,000 to $1 million for a cabin to be on the first cruise. Construction is scheduled to start soon in China.

"I'm funding this myself because I want to spend the money I've got before I die,'' he said.

Palmer became a billionaire in the property, minerals and shipping businesses and says he has long been fascinated by the story of the 'Titanic'.

A rendering of the Turkish bath on Titanic II, which an Australian billionaire is planning to build and set sail 2016. AP Photo/Blue Star Line

He said people are inspired by his quest to replicate one of the most famous vessels in history.

''It's all about you, your partner, Romeo and Juliet, Rose and Jack, what a thing to be excited about,'' he said, referencing James Cameron's 1997 film "Titanic".

''When did you spend five days with your wife? You need to do it, get on a cruise, but get on the Titanic II."

The original Titanic was the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner when it hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank on April 15, 1912. More than 1,500 people perished in the maiden voyage.

A rendering of the indoor pool on Titanic II, which an Australian billionaire is planning to build and set sail in 2016. AP Photo/Blue Star Line

There has been a mixed reaction from relatives of those who sailed on the original ship. Helen Benziger, great granddaughter of Titanic survivor Margaret "Molly" Brown said her ancestor would approve. "She would be the first one in line for a ticket. Absolutely she would love it."

Titanic historian, Philip Littlejohn, whose grandfather was a first class steward on the doomed liner, is also intrigued by the plans.

His grandfather, Alexander James Littlejohn, turned white-haired overnight after surviving the disaster.

"I think grandfather would have loved it," he said. ''I mean to think that people were still talking about the job that he did over 100 years later and that people were fascinated by the Titanic story," he said.

But not everyone is impressed by the Australian billionaire's plans.

Ninety-one-year-old Pat Lacey is the great great niece of the ship's captain, Edward John Smith, who perished at sea.

Lacey thinks Smith would be "absolutely horrified" by the plans to rebuild the liner.

"I think it is utterly pointless and in rather poor taste really....If you have got that amount of money, it must be costing a bomb, you know in this day and age, why not do something useful with it?" she said.

"I can image all the ghosts of people who went down on it, getting up and being cross about it. I certainly do. I don't understand the mentality of someone who wants to do it really," she said.

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