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Obituary: Jack Grimm

Jack F. Grimm, oil prospector and adventurer: born Wagoner, Oklahoma 18 May 1925; married (one son, one daughter); died 6 January 1998.

Jack Grimm once described his life "as a continuous search for the unknown". A gambler by instinct and geologist by training, he made his considerable fortune as an oil wildcatter in Texas and Oklahoma and then spent it on quixotic hunts for the Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest, the Abominable Snowman in Nepal, the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, Noah's Ark in Turkey and the Titanic in the Atlantic.

A flamboyant man by na-ture, he maintained that he had indeed found both the wrecked ship and the ark, a piece of which, he insisted, he carried in his briefcase wherever he went.

Grimm's lifelong questing began early; at the age of 11 he was inspired by his grandfather's tales of treasure to blow up a riverbed near his home-town of Wagoner, Wisconsin, with dynamite from the local hardware store. All he found were a few arrowheads, bullets and an old frying pan but it was enough to confirm his passion. "That was it," he later said. "That was all it took to fire my imagination."

After serving in the Marines in the Second World War, Grimm was inspired by his friend Bunker, the son of the billionaire oil wildcatter H.L. Hunt, to go into the prospecting business. He studied geology and turned down job offers from oil companies to strike out on his own. He was lucky the first well he drilled in Oklahoma struck oil. But after he moved to Texas the subsequent 25 were dry and Grimm, who spent so much time on the telephone that he once said he planned to have a telephone in his coffin, was broke. But, with one last try, oil flowed again.

In the 1970s, Grimm turned to other searches. He signed on for three expeditions to Turkey to look for Noah's Ark. By scholarly reckoning he failed, but he nevertheless returned to the United States with a piece of carved oak dug from the mountainside of Mount Ararat that was enough to convince him he had succeeded. "This is the ark; that's my story, and I'm going to stick to it," he declared.

Grimm was inspired to go after other treasures and with his tenacity and capacity for showmanship found rich backers for his various projects. In 1979 he launched an effort to find the Titanic, a search detailed in his book Beyond Reach: the search for the Titanic (1982). Though the expedition contributed information that would help the ultimate discovery of the wreck in 1985, a grainy photograph of an anchor taken by Grimm's team was inconclusive. Again, Grimm claimed otherwise.

In later years, the adventurer's exploits were curtailed by a downturn in the oil business and in the Texas economy.