Heroic Wallace Hartley and his band defiantly played on as the doomed Titanic sank.
Now experts believe the violin he was using has been discovered. Tests are being done to prove if it is the instrument band leader Wallace used when he and his seven fellow musicians drowned in the disaster 100 years ago.
Treasure trove: Other items salvaged from the ship displayed at Guernsey's Auction House in New York. File pic/afp
Author Steve Turner, who wrote a book about the Titanic band, said: "I was suspicious at first but when I looked closely I could only conclude that this was the real thing or the result of an extremely elaborate, and well informed, hoax. I am convinced it is genuine."
When Wallace's body was found in the Atlantic, his violin was reportedly strapped to his chest. But its whereabouts have been a mystery ever since. The person who claims to now own the violin lives in the UK but is not one of the musician's relatives. The owner says Wallace's fiancee, Maria Robinson, was sent the instrument after the tragedy.
Among the evidence is a 1912 diary in which Maria, who moved from the US to Bridlington, East Yorkshire, drafted a letter to authorities in Nova Scotia thanking them for returning it to her.
It is claimed the violin's case has the initials WHH and on the instrument is the inscription: "For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement. From Maria."
If sold it would smash the record for a Titanic artefact - �101,000 for post office keys in 2007. Auctioneer Henry Aldridge has spent thousands establishing if it is Wallace's violin. Aldridge said: "The owner has not decided if they want to sell but it is more likely it will go on exhibition if proved genuine. We hope to have a definite answer this year."