ABOUT SEVEN miles south of Paducah, Cadillac Jack turned his buff-colored Sedan de Ville off the dirt road and onto a freshly plowed red Texas field. It was three hours since he had started out on this latest expedition and in that time he'd been through the worst that Lone Star country has to offer -- a Texas dust storm, a bottle of Reunite white (the Oasis beer and wine joint was out of his favorite drink, Asti Spumanti) and Anson (birthplace of Jeannie C. Riley "Harper Valley PTA" fame).

Now, as Texas thunderheads glowered in the late afternoon sky, Cadillac Jack Grimm, distinguished member fo the Explorers Club and bankroller of searches for Noah's Ark, Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster and the Titanic, was gearing up for a Texas-style adventure -- recovering another wildcat well for Grimm Oil.

He gunned the car across the naked field that stretched like a red sea to the horizon and headed toward an orange rig, looming like a steel leviathan on the northern edge of the Harrison lease.

Cadillac Jack gave the order to the engineer, who passed the word to the rig hands, to run the swab down the well -- the first step in determining just what, if any, buried treasure might be recovered. Lighting crackled and rain began to fall as the roughnecks scrambled onto the rig.

Cadillac Jack, meanwhile, took shelter behind the wheel of his car and settled in for the 20 minutes or so it would take for the swab to run the 6,511-foot depth of the well. He popped a cartridge of his favorite big band sounds into the tape deck and reached for the bottle of Reunite for a last swig as "Harbor Lights" played on the car stero.

He kept his eyes fixed on a skinny pipe attached to the rig from which water dribbled into a mud pit.

"If the liquid flows black from the pipe, that's oil," he said. "And when you see that water shoot out across the pit, smile, honey. That's gas."

Black dribbles from a pipe? Water shooting into a pit? Whatever happened to black geysers of crude gushing from the ground?

That, said Cadillac Jack, only happened in movies.

Thirty minutes passes . . . an hour. Nothing flowed from that pipe but water. Finally, Grimm passed the word to close the rig down for the night. "We'll hit it with some acid in the morning," he said.

The business of adventure is hard to predict.

Jack Grimm likes to say he's in the business of finding homes for deals. So when a stranger phoned him one November day in 1979 with a plan to find the wreck of the fabled Titantic, Grimm told him, "Send me a package." It was a tailor-made venture for this Texas tycoon -- part science, part science fiction, and guaranteed to lay the rest Cadillic Jack's other nickname, Honda Fred.

Grimm leads expeditions from behind a walnut-grained, Formica desk on the third-floor of the First National Bank building. He rarely goes on these searches. He gets his kicks from the belief that hunting Noah's Ark, the Loch Ness monster, Big Foot and the Titanic could be important scientific contributions made possible by a grant Jack Grimm. "Whatever I discover, I want it to be documented scientifically and archeologically so that we contribute something to the scientific community."

Jack Grimm's lifelong search for the unknown is really a search for a place in history. To help him find that immortality, he has the William Morris Agency to represent him; author William Stevenson, who wrote the best seller "A Man Called Intrepid," to serve as his Boswell; Orson Welles to narrate his unreleased (except in Abilene) film documentary, "Search for the Titanic," and a team of scientific experts and a battery of sophisticated equipment to conduct his search for the Titanic which began last July and resumes next month.

He lives in Abilene -- not the prettiest little town ever seen; that's in Kansas -- but the town that calls itself "the buckle of the Bible Belt" and "the Wildcatter Capital."

His business: exploring and drilling wildcat wells.

He believes in the work ethic, the miracles of toupeed television evangelist Ernest Ainsley, the gross injustice of the windfall profits tax and the golden rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules."

In appearance, he somewhat resembles Ed Asner, barrel-chested with a broad forehead bounded by a receding hairline and thick black eyebrows that give him a gruff look belying a soft native Oklahoma drawl and restless manner. The ready-made checked suits and black Florsheims he favors are more akin to a Dayton, Ohio, insurance broker than a Cadillac cowboy.

But he takes his moniker from a flamboyant boot-legger he knew as a boy in eastern Oklahoma and from a certain Las Vegas poker match, the 1975 Binions Horseshoe World Series, in which Grimm won what is probably the world's most expensive congeniality award after anteing up $10,000. "I smiled when I lost," he jokes.

He owns a mountain at Buffalo Gap near Abilene, on which he says he'll carve a sculpture three times larger than Mount Rushmore, and an 800-acre spread, which qualifies as a ranch. But he resides in Tanglewood, a subdivision of tidy lawns and sprawling ranch houses with swimming pools, where $250,000 still more than buys the American dream houses. "To live on a ranch would drive me crazy," say Grimm. "I can't stand to be without people."

Like many a rich Texan, he has the obligatory herd of cattle and even a few head of buffalo. But the bloodlines he prefers belong to Maltese dogs, a small white fluff and named Beauregard in particular.

He is a Maalox-mainlining workaholic whose life revolves around the Petroleum Club of Abilene and the next deal. His wife Jackie, who once bought him a Neiman-Marcus tie with his telephone number printed on the front, says they'll bury him with a telephone in his coffin.For fun, he plays poker with the boys every Thursday night at the Petroleum Club and takes Sunday afternoon drives "to look at some cows."

And if he seems like a man whose 56 years have followed a straight-and-narrow course at a treadmill pace, he doesn't see it that way.

"My life," says Grimm, "has been one continuous search for the unknown."

Since he hunted buried treasure as a kid, Grimm's quest for the unknown has been conducted mainly in the pay zones of various Texas and Oklahoma oil and gas fields and Utah gold mines. To date, he figures he owns a piece of between 300 and 400 producing wells. Says he lost track of his net worth about the time people began saying he was a millionaire. That was 25 years ago.

Then one day in 1970 his fascination with the unknown turned from underground rock formations to even deeper subjects when he read in the Abilene Reporter-News about an upcoming French expedition to find Noah's Ark atop Turkey's Mount Ararat, where the Bible says it came to rest. He was intrigued. "It had always bothered me that communism was a godless society," he said. "I thought if you could prove that there was a flood, an ark and eight survivors then you would have to accept the Bible." That, Grimm figured, would show those communists.

He phoned the expedition's sponsors, the now-defunct Search Foundation, offered his help and accepted the invitation to go along. They didn't find the ark but that didn't dissuade Grimm from his anti-communism aim. He put together a package to finance his own expedition in 1974 with the help of the Search Foundation and the Arctic Institute and produced a film to recoup the $20,000 investment. Grimm's expedition didn't find Noak's Ark either.But it produced "Ark of Noah" and a modest profit, thanks in part to cable television syndication of the 1975 documentary.

It wasn't until several years later, however, that Grimm really got religion. He was flipping the dial of his television set during half time of a college football game, and hurting in the hip from an old war injury, when his tuner came to rest on the television crusade of Rev. Ernest Ainsley.

"It was like a force of warm hot air came over me," Grinn recalls, "and the pain in my hip was gone."

When Grimm wrote a letter to Ainsley telling of his experience, he says the evangelist replied, "That has happened to many people who have seen me on television."

His appetite for adventure whetted by the search for Noah's Ark, Grimm turned next to big-game hunting: the Loch Ness monster and Big Foot. So far, the biggest discoveries Grimm's expeditions have made are a grainy photograph of a blurry shadow that may or may not be the Loch Ness monster, and that a two-week, two-man search for Big Foot can cost $10,000.

He bristles at the suggestion that these expeditions are merely a tycoon's tinkering.

"My projects are always structured as business ventures," he says. "They are not hobbies. They take full advantage of tax exemptions and they are intended to recover their costs and turn a profit."

Now, all he has to do is find the Titanic. Birth of Adventure

From the start, Grimm's idea of adventure tended toward the explosive. As a boy growing up in Wagoner, Okla., he once dynamited a tree beneath which, legend has it, bandits had buried a stash of gold. He came closer to blowing himself up than finding any treasure. During World War II he enlisted in the Marine Corps. trained as a demolitions expert, and emerged a demolitions victim when he was wounded in the leg by an enemy hand grenade at Guadal-canal.

Grimm credits his adventure streak to his grandfather, George Washington Grimm. An ex-vaudevillian born in Winchester, Va., Granddad Grimm made the run to Oklahoma when the Indian territory was opened to settlers in 1906, and eventually found his way into the oil business drilling water wells. But the old man found his way into Jack's heart by spinning wonderful yarns about bandits and buried treasure.

The Marine Corps., of course, has always been a country boy's ticket to adventure. That time-honored tradition, coupled with wartime patriotism, propelled Grimm to his local recruiter, who ordered him to San Diego and the Pacific.

"He was just a country boy with a nice personality," recalls Nelson Bunker Hunt, who as a young Navy recruit used to pal around with Grimm, forging a friendship that has continued through the years and several drilling partnerships. "I never saw the side of him that would make him an adventurer."

But then Grimm never saw the side of Hunt that made him an heir to the world's biggest fortune until years later when he paid a call on his old war buddy and found himself at the gate of H. L. Hunt's estate.

Going into the oil business for Grimm was a family tradition -- like Granddad Grimm, his father and older brother Suell were wildcat oil men, and as a youth, Grimm worked as a cable tool dresser on his brother's wells. How Grimm went about getting into the oil business, well that was up to him.

"In our family, if you want to make it, you've got to do it on your own," says Grimm, whose son Jack is now doing it on his own as a petroleum geologist in Austrailia. Tell me about it.

On the advice of a military doctor he met while recovering from his grenade wounds, and with the help of a GI loan and disability stipend, Grimm decided to take the college route to the oil business. He enrolled at Oklahoma University to study petroleum engineering, but quickly changed to petroleum geology "because that's where the fun is -- the drill of discovery."

At Oklahoma, he met his wife Jackie at an Acacia fraternity party and married her in 1947 during his sophomore year. They spent their honeymoon panning for gold in California. Eager to make his fortune, Grimm settled with his new wife in Breckenridge, Tex., in 1951, in the heart of a newly discovered oil field, and began putting together drilling prospects."You find some good geology, go and lease the land, and then put together the investors," he says, making it all sound so simple.

It wasn't so simple at first.

Between 1952 and 1953, before moving on to Abilene in 1955, he put together 25 deals and drilled 25 straight dry holes. "It lowers your self-esteem considerably," says Grimm.

He was so broke that at one point the phone company cut off his service for a month, until an oil friend showed up on Grimm's doorstep, desperate to talk to him.

"He told me he couldn't reach me on the phone and I said 'I know.'" Grimm recalls. "So he reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of hundred dollar bills, handed one to me and said, 'Here, get your phone fixed.' I've had continuous phone service since then."

Not long after that, Grimm drilled well No. 26 and ended his dry streak with a $1,000-a-day gusher.

If there is a Texas oil man's maxim of wealth, it was probably best summed up by H. L. Hunt. "Money," Hunt said, "is just a way of keeping score."

No one understands the vagaries of fortune better than an oil man. Geology and engineering notwithstanding, wildcatting is a gambler's game requiring a poker player's gift for trading and sizing people up, and a more-than-casual acquaintance with Lady Luck. It's a business in which today's delinquent telephone subscriber scratches together $10,000 to buy a few drilling leases and becomes tomorrow's millionaire and, God willing, next week's multimillionaire.

"This isn't a game for the faint-hearted," said one wildcatter."It's not much different than throwing craps in Las Vegas.But there is no more fulfilling industry that I can think of. I guess it's because of the high risk. Once it gets in your blood, it's like an addiction. I've been broke in the business two or three times. Anybody who's been in the oil business always comes back to it."

But after you've made your first million, what do you do for an encore? If you Jack Grimm, you take your cue from the man who just won big at the craps table and rushes out to buy himslef a gaudy bauble as tangible proof. You can buy yourself a mountain and announce your plans to carve it with a sculpture three times the size of Mount Rushmore, you call it "a legacy of great value for generations to come" which you plan to give to the State of Texas and to the nation. And being a practical man, you take a hefty tax deduction for your gift and apply for a planning grant to finance it.

Or, you announce a plan to find the Titanic.

In Abilene, where oil men usually put their money in the bank so they can stroke it, you're a hero, the most famous resident-celebrity since Billie Sol Estes.

"Jack Grimm," says one Abilenian, "has more nerve than a broken tooth." Titanic Attempts

No tragedy at sea in modern times has gripped the memory and imagination more than the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic. The largest and most luxurious vessel ever built, she was more floating palace than ship -- 852.5 feet long, 92.5 feet wide and outfitted with chandeliers and tapestries and opulent suites befitting the social and fashionable who embarked on her maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York.

Four days after setting sail, on the night of April 14, 1912, she struck an iceberg, tore a gaping hole in her steel hull and plunged two miles to the sea bed, taking 1,503 passengers to a watery grave. The victims included John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim and George Widener.

The social event of the season had become, as one eyewitness described it, "a fancy dress ball in Dante's Hell."

At the time, the sinking of man's most marvelous engineering feat was seen by many as a vengeful God's reply to man's overweening pride in technology. Some simply lost faith in technology's ability to overcome the forces of nature.

It was the stuff of which legends, books and movies are made -- 28 books and seven movies to be exact, most recently Clive Cussler's best-seller-turned-film, "Raise the Titanic."

Still, no one has seen the Titanic since she reared herself on end, towering some 150 feet above the sea, and slowly dived to the ocean floor that cold April night.

Although her official distress position was pinpointed to a place miles off the coast of Newfoundland, her exact location today remains a mystery. Some have suggested that she might be at least 15 miles east of the official position because the ship's time was adjusted by a small amount each day so as not to inconvenience passengers with an old-time version of jet lag. And ocean currents most certainly have caused her to drift over the years.

The mystery of the Titanic's location, either because of the adventurer's desire to be the first to actually glimpse the wreck, or the commercial value of photographing or salvaging her, probably has inspired more schemes than books or movies.

There was D. J. Woolsley, a factory worker in Middlesex, England, who started Oceanic Salvage Co. to recover the millions of dollars in jewels that some believe went down with the ship. There was an Illinois farmer who supposedly wanted to find the jewel-encrusted copy of "The Rubaiyat" by Omar Khayyam that some say was on board. And Spencer Sokale and Joe King, two Sausalito promoters who figured that if they could sell sections of surplus from the Golden Gate Bridge in special numbered editions for $35 to $40 as "Strands of History," the souveneir possibilities from the world's most fabled wreck were, well, titanic.

Commander John Gratttan, a retired senior diving expert of the British Navy, even claimed to have pinpointed the precise location of the Titanic and joined forces with two young London entrepreneurs, who figured that the promotion to be gained from photographing the Titanic would be equal to that of a private company putting the first man on the moon.

They all shared a common end: Their talk exceeded their action.

Ironically, although Jack Grimm was the first entry into the Titanic sweepstakes actually to put his money where his mouth was, he did not originate the idea of finding the wreck.

In 1974 Michael Harris, a 45-year-old professional expedition leader and film maker from Tampa, was casting about for his next challenge. He had just completed an underwater feature film on the effects of early hydrogen- and atomic-bomb testing on the lagoons of the Bikini Islands. The film, "Deadly Fathoms," took second place in the Atlanta Film Festival.

"I was wondering what I could do to top that success," he said. "I decided I would try to locate, dive on and film the Titanic."

Harris' initial research uncovered the sobering fact that the Titanic was believed to be lying in some 12,000 feet of water, quite a bit deeper than the 200-foot depths in which Harris had worked during the Bikini film, and quite a bit more expensive and complicated to film than the $150,000-budget "Deadly Fathoms." Still, he persisted and over the next three years put together a proposal for the Titanic project that included finding the wreck, diving on it with a robot-controlled submersible, and actually filming inside it. "That was the way I thought it would be done," he said. "That was the adventure." The cost he calculated at roughly a million dollars.

A low-budget explorer, Harris was an old hand at raising adventure capital -- he put together a group of fundamentalists in 1977 to finance an expedition to prove the existence of Noah's Ark (Grimm was not involved) and produce the film "Expedition to Ararat," and assembled a consortium of Louisiana retailers to sponsor an expedition to Mexico to find Pancho Villa's treasure and produce the film "Pancho Villa's Treasure."

But he had never put together a deal the size of the Titanic expedition nor produced a film as technically ambitious as this one obviously would be. Attempts to interest the National Geographic Society and the Massachusetts Institute of Oceanography at Woods Hole as sponsors were met with a cool reception.

There was only one man Harris knew could raise a million dollars for something like this. That man was Jack Grimm.

Although they had never met, Harris says, "We had a mutual friend who was always telling me, 'You ought to get in touch with Grimm. He's an oil man and he likes adventure.'" So in November 1979, Harris placed the call and received his warmest reception to date when Grimm invited him to come to Abilene to meet with a group of oil men at the Petroleum Club.

"Jack asked me," Harris recalls, "'Do you mind if I have a few reporters come by? I'm kind of a colorful character in Abilene and it might help the project.' I told him I didn't mind. Then when I showed up at the club, there were reporters all over the place -- local newspapers, AP, UPI."

The next day, the story that made the papers throughout the country read, "Texas Tycoon to Find Titanic." And Mike Harris gained a quick lesson in Grimm's golden rule.

Grimm's approach to the adventure business is the same as the oil business: Get a prospect, put together a deal, sell it, then go for it. The group of Titanic investors are mostly independent oil men, including his old buddy Nelson Bunker Hunt. Grimm put up a quarter of the money for a quarter interest. So far Grimm says they've spend $1,250,000. He figures this summer's search will cost another $750,000.

Although some have accused Grimm of making exaggerated promises about what the expedition might accomplish, Grimm has never said he will raise the Titanic. Nor does he intend to salvage the wreck.

"I'm not interested in marketing any store-bought bric-a-brac," he says. "All the rest about recovering diamonds and jewels and whatnot supposedly on board is just speculation by others -- press mainly. I've always believed making a film, developing the equipment necessary and finding her would be enough to recover our investment." Gaining Credibility

At Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, Dr. William Ryan, an oceanographer, read in the newspaper about Grimm's search and was intrigued by its scientific possibilities.

"The equipment [to find the wreck] can be used to map the ocean floor and understand underwater volcanism and how it affects the ocean floor," he explained.

Ryan wrote Grimm, offering his help and proposing the use of deeptow, wide-screen sonar because its ability to cover great distances faster would require less ship time. He also suggested that his friend, Fred Spiess of the University of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography who had pioneered the sonar, could be of great help.

Grimm liked Ryan's ideas and he liked the fact that because of his association with Columbia, Ryan could add a measure of credibility to the project. In exchange for Ryan's help, Grimm granted $330,000 to Columbia University to obtain a wide-screen sonar for Lamont-Doherty (which Grimm could use over five years) and the technical support to employ it.

"It's like somebody buying a microscope that can be used for other purposes," Ryan said, when asked whether Grimm wasn't buying as much prestige as equipment.

Still, when Grimm has an expedition logo designed, Lamont-Doherty and Scripps figured prominently.

Over the next several months, scientists from Lamont-Doherty and Scripps formulated the experiments needed to locate the hulk somewhere within a 300-square mile area. A 180-foot vessel, H.J.W. Fay, was chartered from Tracor Marine of Port Everglades, Fla., at a cost of about $7,000 a day.

Meanwhile, Grimm was hard at work setting the stage for his great discovery. He retained the William Morris Agency to represent him; negotiated a $150,000 book deal with a division of Harlequin Books, publishers of romance fiction, which arranged for author William Stevenson to write the story of Grimm's life and search, and hired country-western singer Kenny Starr to compose and record "Ballad of the Titanic" with the flip side "Theme of the Titanic."

On July 17, 1980, a team of 23 scientists and engineers, three film makers including Mike Harris, author Stevenson and Jack Grimm set sail from Port Everglades for an initial shakedown cruise to Bermuda, where Grimm disembarked.

"I don't think he got enough credit for the fact it was a practical decision not to go," said Stevenson. "There was a hell of a lot of pressure for space. It became a question as to who was really vital."

But, then, somebody had to stay behind to handle the press.

"Originally, the Fay departed Bermuda for the North Atlantic for a two-week search, but heavy seas and bad weather cut short the expedition. Although 14 sonar targets were identified as being possible sites of the wreck, the expedition fell considerably short of its announced goal of pin-pointing and filming the Titanic.

Nevertheless, a few weeks after the Fay returned, Grimm announced that sonar pictures would "conclusively prove" that the Titanic had been located. The pictures turned out to be a shadowy blur of what Grimm said was a Titanic-sized object on the ocean floor.

Grimm's scientific team was less certain.

In his report on the sonar search, Ryan speculated that three of the 14 targets were most encouraging, but that all 14 should be revisited with a deep-tow magnetometer.

With his million-dollar investment on the line, Grimm announced plans for this summer's second search, and rushed into production a documentary of Titanic '80 in hopes of recouping enough of his investment to bankroll Titanic '81. "Search for the Titanic," narrated by Orsen Welles, premiered in Abilene last February. Although Grimm claims $100,000 in foreign television rights sales, so far he has been unable to distribute the film in the United States.

Because of Grimm's uncomfortable marriage of show biz with science, the Titanic expedition was greeted by controversy and skepticism from the beginning. During a press conference held at the Explorers Club's elegant Manhattan town house to announce the plan and present the club's banner to Grimm, the first question from the floor challenged the integrity of the expedition.

"The Explorers Club has always been associated with serious exploratory endeavors," the reporter began. "I wonder, in view of the media hype [for this one], second only to the jumping of the Snake River by Evel Knievel, if there isn't perhaps an overriding commercial consideration here that goes beyond the traditional feeling of the membership of the club?"

President Charles Brush replied that he thought the questioner was "confusing commercializing with popularizing." "Popularizing is important to exploration," he said, "because it means the broad transmission of knowledge. Without it, knowledge remains locked up in its temples. Explorers Club members have been roaming the world since 1905 and many of them have written about it and made films of what they've done and where they've gone. If these films recover some of the costs, so much the better. We think that popularizing of exploration and propagating understanding of the world's magnificent diversity is just what the Explorers Club should be about."

But some scientists have questioned the methods of popularizing the expedition, mainly because of claims by Grimm and film maker Harris about the scientific value of the expedition and its technical capabilities. Trying to pass off the sonar shadow as the photograph that would conclusively prove they had found the Titanic didn't help.

"To bear them tell it," said one deep-sea sonar photograph expert who was approached by Grimm, "they're bringing to bear the latest American technology and know-how in attempting to find and photograph the wreck.In fact, what they're doing is like going out on a bear hunt with a BB gun. They might hit the bear, but they'll never find it."

Others -- familiar with the extraordinary technical difficulties of filming at the depths at which the Titanic is believed to be -- are dubious that the visual images obtained by a towed camera package like the one Harris plans to employ will be of sufficient quality to recoup Grimm's investment.

"I've always thought that finding the Titanic was not the hardest part of the puzzle," said Dr. Robert Ballard of Massachusetts Institute of Oceanography at Woods Hole. "Filming it in an appealing way is the hardest part. You want to see the word Titanic written across the bow."

Ballard investigated the possibility of a Titanic search and film project with National Geographic but lacked the financing and equipment. "We felt that to justify the expense," he said, "we had to bring back images that are competitive in today's marketplace. We wanted to penetrate inside the vessel to film the interior. We figured it would take $2 million with a two-month expedition."

The problem, Ballard said, was penetrating the vessel. There are only four manned submersibles in the world and probably only one of them, the Alvin, is capable of doing it. However, the Alvin, which is owned by the U.S. Navy, is used for research only and not available.

"We wanted to see how they can deliver the images after this expedition. I just can't believe that they can make a profitable film, unless they go the road of producing a low-budget big advertising blitz film. And if they go down that road, I'm very glad to be watching it from the sidelines."

With the unsinkable confidence of a man who says, "I don't go off half-cocked, I go off well-informed and supported by scientists," Grimm promises that Titanic '81 will return this summer with bonafide photographs that the world will recognize as the sunken wreck and that will be used for the happy ending of "Search for the Titanic."

"It's easy to sit back and say, 'We can't do this because the technology to do it hasn't been developed yet,'" he says. "I'm the sort of person who says, 'Let's do it and develop the technology to help us do it.' That's what American enterprise is all about." Man of Letters

It is Saturday afternoon and Grimm is at the office checking in on the Harrison well and catching up on a little oil business. During the week, he wasy he is so busy with calls and letters about the Titanic that he can't get his work done. On his desk top are eight stacks of correspondence waiting to be answered. Most of it is addressed to Oilman Jack Grimm and written by people curious about the Titanic or who want to volunteer for the expedition.

He says he feels obliged to answer each one. "If they're kind enough to take an interest, I feel I should be interested enough to reply," he says.

And seeing his Titanic files, he apparently feels obliged to keep them all, too. There are letters from psychics offering mystical help in finding the Titanic, from men who want Grimm to bankroll a search for dinosaurs, from a Yugoslavian artist who would like Grimm to arrange a show of his work in America. But mostly they are letters from well-wishers, ordinary people from around the world who have been inspired by one man's quest to find a legend.

"I've never seen children so 'turned on' as they were with our unit on the Titanic," wrote a third-grade teacher from Denver. When Grimm phoned to thank her for the letter, he ended up taking long-distance questions from the youngsters who wanted to know all about the bodies, the five grand pianos and the jewels that went down with the ship.

Judging from the stack of reports entitled, "A Conversation with Jack Grimm," he told a few tales of adventure that would make Granddad Grimm proud. One 9-year-old wrote: "He talked abou 50-foot squids and giant worms that eat pianos. He said he thought up the idea when he was 9 years old!" The composition included a cartoon-like drawing of a sinking ship accompanied by a word balloon that read "Oh well."

In the end, the files may just be what Jack Grimm's searches are all about. Whether or not he finds the Titanic, he has been indelibly linked to her legend. To that extend, anyway, his place in history is assured.