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Saturday, 10th April 2004
Titanic survivor's lost scents are finally uncovered
BY Rebecca Camber
EXACTLY 92 years ago today, Adolphe Saalfeld left England on the Titanic to chase a life-long dream of selling his perfume around the world.
He survived the disaster but his fragrances were claimed by the ocean when the ship went down in 1912 - where they lay undiscovered for 88 years.
But today - on the anniversary of the Titanic's fatal voyage - the Edwardian perfumer would have been proud as his scents were finally unveiled to the world.
Scientists have now recreated the delicate perfumed of Adolphe Saalfeld - who returned to Manchester after the tragedy - after one of the 62 bottles recovered was smashed and experts found that the scent had been preserved.
The powerful smell of rose and violet has been copied using a "fingerprint" of the original chemical composition and visitors to the Edinburgh International Science Festival were among the first to smell it again in almost a century.
German-born Adolphe, who died in 1926, had set sail on April 10, 1912 from Southampton after buying a princely £30 first class ticket for what was billed as the voyage of the century aboard the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner.
The 47-year-old chairman of the chemists and distillers Sparks,White and Co Ltd, had high hopes when he embarked for America as the perfume business was booming in the UK and he hoped that the budding market in the US would make him a rich man.
After storing his precious leather satchels, containing 65 test tube-like bottles full of concentrated perfume oils, on board the ship, he dashed a quick note to his wife Gertrude, at home in Manchester, just before the Titanic left port.
"I just had an hour roaming about on this wonderful boat, I like my cabin very much. It's like a bed-sitting room and rather large," he wrote.
But on the fourth night, whilst Adolphe was relaxing in the smoking room after an extravagant dinner of oysters, salmon and filet mignons, the ship hit an iceberg.
In the scramble for the lifeboats, he forgot about his precious cargo but he never forget the horrendous sights and sounds of the 1,500 passengers who died that night.
Afterwards he said: "As we drifted away gradually, I saw Titanic sink lower and lower and finally her lights went out, and others in my boat said they saw her disappear. Our boat was nearly two miles away, but pitiful cries could be plainly heard."
Adolphe was picked up by the rescue ship Carpathia and taken to New York. But traumatised by what happened, he returned to Manchester never to go to America again.
Though he gave up on his dream, scientists later recovered most of the vials on the ocean floor in 2000 and his bottles were put on display at the Science Museum in London last year.
Perfume historian David Pybus who recreated the fragrance said: "It is certainly reminiscent of some of the fine fragrances on the market today."
The perfume is to be launched as part of a range of retro-perfumes later this year.