David Concannon oral history interview



David Concannon oral history interview


Born-digital video recording of an oral history with David Concannon and interviewer Geoff Nunn, recorded as part of The Museum of Flight Oral History Program, February 22, 2017.


Underwater explorer and attorney David Concannon is interviewed about his careers in law, ocean exploration, and artifact recovery. He discusses his experiences in the field of exploration, focusing in particular on his work on the Titanic expeditions of the early 2000s and on the search-and-recovery mission of the Apollo 11 F-1 engines, funded by Bezos Expeditions. He also touches on his involvement in the Explorers Club, the Sea-Space Symposium, and the XPRIZE Foundation. Topics discussed include his personal and education background, the logistics of his deep-sea expeditions, the legal and technical challenges surrounding salvage missions, and his motivations for becoming an explorer.

Table Of Contents

Introduction and personal background -- Education -- Interest in exploration and experience in the field -- Sea-Space Symposium -- Undersea expedition to the Titanic -- Discovery of the Titanic -- Role in XPRIZE and thoughts on private space exploration -- Recovery of F-1 engines -- Thoughts on 2050 -- NASA’s reaction to expedition -- More about the search expedition -- Motivation to be an explorer





1 recording (1 hr., 45 min., 25 sec.) : digital



Bibliographic Citation

The Museum of Flight Oral History Collection/The Museum of Flight




Biographical Text

David Concannon is an underwater explorer and attorney who has participated in several deep-sea expeditions to locate shipwrecks and other sites of interest. He was born in Westchester, Pennsylvania in 1965 to William and Sharon (née Murphy) Concannon. During the 1960s, his father worked as a draftsman and his mother worked as a secretary at General Electric Aerospace. In 1969, a four-year-old Concannon and his family watched the Apollo 11 lunar landing on television, which sparked an interest in space. He also developed an early interest in hiking, climbing, and scuba diving. While attending the School of the Open at Camp Mowglis (New Hampshire), he discovered his first shipwreck at the camp’s lake.

After graduating from Great Valley High School, Concannon studied finance and economics at Indiana University of Pennsylvania from 1983 to 1988. He worked as a lifeguard and scuba diving instructor at the university after earning his advanced-level diving certifications. From 1988 to 1990, he studied at the Widener University School of Law (Pennsylvania), the University of Nairobi School of Law (Kenya), and The Hague Academy of International Law (Netherlands). His areas of focus were international and environmental law and international trade and finance.

After graduating from law school, Concannon worked at the law firms Conrad, O’Brien, Gellman & Rohn and Kohn, Swift & Graf. He also served as a law clerk for Chief Judge Louis C. Bechtle, U.S. District Court. During this time, he wrote a decision for the Ninth Circuit regarding a shipwreck case that was affirmed by the Supreme Court. Over the course of his legal career, Concannon established himself as an expert in maritime law and the legal issues surrounding underwater exploration and salvage. He served as Chair of the Legal Committee for the Explorers Club from 1997 to 2001, as general counsel for the Professional Shipwreck Explorers Association from 1995 until 2002, and as general counsel for the Academy of Underwater Arts & Sciences from 2001 to 2005. He also established his own practice, Concannon & Charles in 2002.

In 1998, Concannon represented the Explorers Club in a lawsuit between the club and the salvage company RMS Titanic Incorporated over access to the Titanic shipwreck. He won the case and was subsequently hired by RMS Titanic to organize their salvage mission to recover artifacts for international exhibition. From 2000 to 2005, Concannon was involved in several Titanic expeditions. His roles included serving as an advisor to the U.S. government and organizing an expedition for a television network.

In August 2010, Concannon received an anonymous phone call from a group in Seattle, Washington inquiring about the feasibility of recovering the Apollo 11 F-1 engines from the Atlantic seabed. After preparing a feasibility study, he was asked by the group, on behalf of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to organize the search-and-recovery operation. Concannon accepted and served as project leader, working with Vince Capone, Don Walsh, and other members of the team to locate the engines. During the expedition, they found debris from Apollo 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 16 and successfully located the Apollo 11 engines. In February and March of 2013, the team recovered the Apollo 11 engines, along with engines from Apollo 12, 13, and 16. The expedition team was recognized by the Explorers Club for an outstanding feat of exploration.

Concannon has been involved in a number of exploration-focused organizations, including the Explorers Club, the Sea-Space Symposium, the XPRIZE Foundation, and the Holt-Elwell Memorial Foundation.

Biographical information derived from interview and additional information provided by interviewee.