Cunard salvage rights


Scott Holiday

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Jul 29, 2010
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So if the Titanic was still afloat (albeit badly damaged) when Rostron got there, would/could Rostron have cordoned off the area with buoys and claimed Salvage rights on behalf of Cunard once everyone was off board? Then when he got to NY could've coaled up the Capathia, grabbed some other Cunard boats/crew and towed her back to England for a re-fit, or at least stripped all the valuable outfittings and such for future Cunard tubs and then sunk the shell? (obviously the passengers private stuff would have to go back to them, i'm talking company stuff here like silverware, booze, carpets etc).

I was reading how the crew who found the ghost ship Mary Celeste got to drive that tub home and keep all the gold etc on board, it's pretty much an ancient nautical rule dating to the pirate days apparently.

Also wonder why Cunard didn't file for salvage rights in the 1980s since they were actually the "first" ones on the wreck scene? Of course that was pre-Titanic mania when stuff was just rusty old junk, not like now where Lightoller's used pipe cleaners go for 10 K an inch on ebay, etc.

BTW, I also just put a basement coal stove in me 'stead, and at night when I stoke the fire I like to pretend I was a trimmer on the Titanic, which is easy since me basement is always wet from high water table. Coal nowadays is $220 a ton delivered in NJ, wonder what it cost when Titanic was around? Some clowns were I think selling coal from Titanic that was salvaged a while back.
 
Mar 12, 2011
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Scott, my knowledge of maritime law is very limited, but as I understand it, a ship has to be abandoned in order for another ship to claim salvage rights. If Titanic was in a position where she was afloat, but just barely, my guess is a skeleton crew would have remained aboard to keep a few boilers supplying steam to the pumps and to maintain authority over the ship. I'm sure Cunard would have gotten a handsome reward for getting Titanic home in one piece, had they been able to, but I highly doubt they would have kept her. In any case, I doubt Carpathia was powerful enough to tow a ship that much larger than her unassisted, and by the time she got to NY, resupplied and headed back out (I would guess that would take no less than a week) Olympic would have been there, or some other ship would have swooped in during the meantime. For example, Mt. Temple and Californian were nearby, although similarly dwarfed by Titanic. I think I remember reading that Mauretania was a couple days behind Titanic as well, although I could be wrong.
 

Scott Holiday

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I'm sure Cunard would have gotten a handsome reward for getting Titanic home in one piece, had they been able to, but I highly doubt they would have kept her. In any case, I doubt Carpathia was powerful enough to tow a ship that much larger than her unassisted, and by the time she got to NY, resupplied and headed back out (I would guess that would take no less than a week) Olympic would have been there, or some other ship would have swooped in during the meantime. For example, Mt. Temple and Californian were nearby, although similarly dwarfed by Titanic. I think I remember reading that Mauretania was a couple days behind Titanic as well, although I could be wrong.
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Dear God, it would've been a real pisser if Capt. Lord and his squad of D-listers ended up scoring salvage rights because Rostron didn't secure them properly by hoisting a Cunard flag up the tub's mast or cordoning off the site with claim buoys, etc.

Or, Say for example Lord showed up after Rostron had safely everyone off board, and after a quick chat/tour of Titanic they decided the ship was doomed, too badly damaged to tow back, etc. Suppose it was going to sink in like a few hours or so. Would Lord at least be allowed to scavenge whatever he could off the boat since it was going to sink anyway? I'm not talking about totally "looting" the thing, but at least take the radio set, compasses, maybe a few clocks, lamps etc? After all, the stuff was brand new, and all the Californian's gear was basically crap, so at least it would've been put to good use.

Seems better than just letting it ALL sink to the bottom. It's not like Ismay would've even know about it since he wasn't a mariner per se. Plus he was getting the insurance money anyway and it wasn't like anyone in 1912 was going two miles deep with a submarine to inspect it post-mortem.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Seems better than just letting it ALL sink to the bottom. It's not like Ismay would've even know about it since he wasn't a mariner per se.<<

So what? He was a businessman who was intimately aquinted with maritime practices and law. What he diddn't know would be something his company's lawyers would have brought him up to speed on to protect White Star's vested interests.

>>Plus he was getting the insurance money anyway and it wasn't like anyone in 1912 was going two miles deep with a submarine to inspect it post-mortem.<<

Since Titanic was underinsured, the remainder of the loss had to be made good from White Star's in house insurance fund. It amounted to $2.5million which in 1912, was not chump change. I don't think anybody, much less Ismay, would have been thrilled about that.
 

Scott Holiday

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If they had say 4 compartments flooded, any chance they could've towed this thing back for repairs, or even driven it on to NY, or would it have been too dangerous/unstable to operate? I'm not clear if "stay afloat with 4 flooded" actually means "OK to drive it with 4 flooded." I'd imagine they'd have to go very slowly and likely have another ship VERY nearby if things got worse. Also you'd probably get off all the passengers and just have a skelton crew to nurse it back to NYC or England? Like driving a car with a flat tire?

If they hit rough sea or a storm with 4 already flooded it may have stressed it to the point of breaking apart anyway perhaps?

Also, would Smith even be allowed to drive it again after the accident, or would Ismay have Rostron take the wheel since he was more of a crisis-manager type personality? Lightoller could've taken over Carpathia and followed Rostron to NY with Rostron giving him orders over the radio etc. so he wouldn't get lost, and explain all the different controls and such so it wouldn't be like "er, what does this button do" and stuff like that.
 
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Something tells me White Star wouldn't be keen on putting a Captain employed by a rival company in charge of their flagship. Especially one as relatively inexperienced as Rostron was at the time. Smith had commanded Olympic back to port after her collision with HMS Hawke. I don't see why he'd be relieved of command had Titanic survived, at least not until after they reached port. For that matter, can the ships owners even DO that while a ship is at sea? Seems unlikely to me.

As for how Titanic would have fared with 4 compartments flooded, I think driving her would be risky. From Wilding's testimony at the british inquiries (assuming I understand correctly), the worst case scenario that Titanic could survive put the tops of the bulkheads 2 feet 7 inches above the waterline. I'd think any kind of high speed manuevering or rough seas would probably compromise her stability.
 

Scott Holiday

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It would've been quite a pickle if 4 departments were flooded and say Rostron, Smith, Ismay and Andrews all took a thorough "tour" once all the passengers were evacuated to see if moving it was possible.

If the chances of making it to NYC were say under 50/50, would Ismay press them to make a sort of "suicide run" and try to save the ship against poor odds? If Smith said he wouldn't do it, would Ismay offer Rostron like 10 K and a new job if he gave it a try and brought her to NY alive? Or maybe Lights or another up n' comer? They could of course re-load the empty lifeboats back aboard so if it did sink they'd be able to save the crew hopefully.

Or maybe Ismay would just decide the boat was snakebit and say "sod it" since probably no one would want to ride in it again anyway- people back then were VERY superstitious about such things, which is why none of Titanic's officers ever got their own captain's job w/ WSL or anyone else post-disaster.
 

Scott Holiday

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Jul 29, 2010
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Sorry Scott, but that's just not how it works. An officer from one line doesn't just take over a ship from another line.
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Yes but after all this was the mother of all emergencies. Not hard to see Lights or Murdoch taking the wheel of Carpathia while Rostron nurses Titanic to maybe Newfoundland or wherever is closest. There wouldn't be much choice since Smith had a total mental breakdown and went catatonic according to most people.

Guess emergencies weren't really his cuppa tea, unlike Rostron who made lists for everyone and was a great coordinator. Hard to imagine the ole' Electric Sprak sending away half-empty lifeboats and such if the roles were reversed.
 
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Reports of Smith "going catatonic" were greatly exaggerated by the more recent movies. Actual testimony does not back this up. I'd suggest you do a little more reading on the men involved. For example, five minutes on the Titanic Inquiry Project website (titanicinquiry.org) shows that Carpathia was only the second (and largest) liner that Rostron had ever commanded, and he'd only been in comman of her for 3 months. Carpathia was approximately a fourth of Titanic's size. Rostron would have no experience in handling such a large vessel (mostly because there was only one other such large vessel in operation at the time!) If Titanic had been stabilized and proven capable of progressing, the men most capable of limping her to port were the men already on board her before Carpathia arrived.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Yes but after all this was the mother of all emergencies. <<

So?

>>Not hard to see Lights or Murdoch taking the wheel of Carpathia while Rostron nurses Titanic to maybe Newfoundland or wherever is closest.<<

It's impossible to see. This isn't a military service we're talking about where a scenerio like that is at least a theoretical possibility. This is the merchant marine and the only way an officer of a competing line takes over a ship where he is not signed on as a crew member would be as salvage IF the ship was found completely deserted and adrift.

Even that's dodgey.
 

Scott Holiday

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It's impossible to see. This isn't a military service we're talking about where a scenerio like that is at least a theoretical possibility. This is the merchant marine and the only way an officer of a competing line takes over a ship where he is not signed on as a crew member would be as salvage IF the ship was found completely deserted and adrift.

Even that's dodgey.
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Oh I thought all these boys were Royal Navy Reserve as well, most of them did end up serving in WWI few years later.

And the crew who took over Mary Celeste also got accused of murdering everyone since the story was so spooky, with fresh coffee on the stove and such but the crew MIA. It is a great story though and fun to think if an ancient UFO or something abducted all of them.
 
Oct 10, 2010
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I thought the fresh coffee story on the Mary Celeste was nonsense.

Still, its good to see someone get the name of the ship right. Some people Gallicise it, to Marie Celeste, some Anglicise it to Mary Sellers. Neither is right, its a strange mix of French and English. And that was after he name was changed from Amazon, a notorious sailor's superstition that brings bad luck.

Back to the 401...
 

Mark Baber

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Jul 4, 2000
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With respect to the question of any Cunard salvage claim:

The Times, London, 11 June 1912

CUNARD COMPANY AND THE TITANIC
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NO CLAIM FOR RECOMPENSE

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The Cunard Company have declined to accept from the White Star Line any
recompense for life-saving in connexion with the Titanic, or for the
loss of the Carpathia's time in putting back to New York. They have also
intimated that they do not intend to make any claim for salvage. The
company stated that they considered it a privilege that the Carpathia
and her crew were the means of picking up the Titanic's survivors.
***
GIFTS FOR THE CARPATHIA'S CREW
---
The White Star Line announced last night that they have received
permission from the Cunard Company to present 100 guineas to Captain
Rostron, 50 guineas each to Surgeon McGee, Purser Brown, and Chief
Steward Hughes, and one month's pay to all the other members of the crew
of the Carpathia, in recognition of the services rendered in saving the
survivors of the Titanic disaster.

-30-
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Oh I thought all these boys were Royal Navy Reserve as well, most of them did end up serving in WWI few years later.<<

Indeed they were, however, there was no war on, they were not on active service and no ship in the merchant navy had been taken up on military service.

>>I thought the fresh coffee story on the Mary Celeste was nonsense.<<

It is, and the reality is a lot more mundane. One of the boats was missing and some of the casks of alcohol were found broken open. It's pretty obvious that fearing a possible explosion...a very real risk...that the passengers and crew took to that boat. With the sails set, the ship got away from them as soon as the wind came up.
 

Scott Holiday

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Jul 29, 2010
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Wow Mark, nice find with the old London Times article. Question is, with big T nearly 2 miles deep on the pond, what kind of "salvage" claim could've been made by Cunard anyway? (Rostron's testimony made clear that even in 1912 it was known how deep that area was).

I suppose the lifeboats had some "salvage" value (being brand new) but I think Rostron had them offloaded prior to docking as they made the ship unstable/topheavy and were in the way, and they disappeared from history after that. Maybe one will turn up someday on "American Pickers' or one of those shows where they rummage through old barns and such.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I suppose the lifeboats had some "salvage" value (being brand new)<<

They did. Not much and they were held as assets until the litigation which followed the disaster ran it's course.

>>Maybe one will turn up someday on "American Pickers' or one of those shows where they rummage through old barns and such.<<

I wouldn't bet the farm on it but I can't rule it out either, however, unless the owner could present authentic documentary evidence to prove the origins of said boat(s) I wouldn't believe it.

"Genuine" artifacts turn up on internet auction websites all the time.

The problem?

They're NOT genuine!
 

Brent Holt

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"If they had say 4 compartments flooded, any chance they could've towed this thing back for repairs, or even driven it on to NY, or would it have been too dangerous/unstable to operate? I'm not clear if "stay afloat with 4 flooded" actually means "OK to drive it with 4 flooded."

They probably would have sent for salvage ships to attempt to nurse Titanic to port.
 

Jim Currie

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Apr 16, 2008
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Hello Lads!

The question of salvage did not arise with Titanic. Salvage is a claim for recovering a vessel after she has been crippled... Even the crew, after leaving a damaged ship, can claim salavage if they re-board the ship and get her back to port.

Hello Brent!

Depends on whether the pumps could deal with the rate of flooding. However, they would still have to have tansferred passengers to a safer means of travel

Hello Michael!
A guinea was 21 shillings. There were 20 shillings to £1 therefore a shilling was equal to 5 pence UK money or 20% of a pound At present, the US dollar exchange rate is $1-55 to the UK pound.It follows that a Guinea was 120% of £1-55 = $1-86c at present day value (I think)

JC

JC