Do expeditions to the Titanic wreck have a future?


Adam Went

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Apr 28, 2003
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Hi all,

OK, this month's topic stems somewhat from some other recent threads on the forums....

Do expeditions to the Titanic wreck have a future? What more can be achieved by them and what would you personally like to see them focus on? Is there anything more that can be learned from the wreck or is it too late / already been done? Finally, the big one: should items have been / continue to be salvaged from the wreck site or should they be left alone?

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Nov 13, 2014
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The many personal items lying in the debris field are reminders that the Titanic site is one giant graveyard.
The wreck also symbolizes all feelings that disappeared with the ship, like a feeling of general safety and confidence, even hubris.
If I would have the chance, I would literally steal all salvaged items and dump them back into the Atlantic Ocean where they came from.
The only exceptions are salvaged items with scientific value, objects from the ship which can be used to get to know more about the Titanic and her foundering.

About wreck expeditions... If there are some locations inside the wreck that are yet to be visited, I would like to see that visit happen. But the expeditions better hurry, because the wreck is decaying so rapidly that soon there will be no more wreck to go inside.
 
Apr 18, 2014
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Hi to all. I was at Titanic Belfast not so long ago, and there is the interactive part of the tour, where you can dig deeper into the wreck story,and even through the help of an computer explore the debris field. Haunting images indeed. And when you stand on the glass, and she, though computer generated, slides below you in a wreck state, wow, one cannot help but be deeply moved. Which is why I would keep the items down there, as they lie there now,in the memory of the victims.On the other hand I have nothing against wreck explorations, but they have to be in a sensitive way. Alas, truth be told, the condition of the wreck itself will deteriorate in the coming years,and I agree with Mr.Puttermans that the expeditions should hurry, before it´s too late.
 

Adam Went

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Apr 28, 2003
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Thank you both for your posts, and I think we are pretty much in agreement. Possibly the only time that I would be happy to see an item salvaged from the wreck would be if it could be proven to have belonged to a particular passenger and their descendants requested/approved the artefact to be brought up from the wreck site, or if the item/s were salvaged for the purpose of some major scientific gain.

As for the wreck itself, perhaps as a side question to this month's topic we should also add: how long do people think the wreck itself might have left before it decays/collapses completely? There's been significant changes since she was first discovered 30 years ago.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Aug 8, 2007
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I've always struggled with the idea of salvaging items, Adam. On one hand, the wreck serves as a mass grave and part of me thinks it should be left alone. On the other hand, just as the wreck is deteriorating, so are the artifacts. If we just leave everything down there, at some point in the future there won't be anything down there worth looking at anyway. As well, having been to one of the exhibitions where salvaged items are displayed, I realize that the average person would never get to see them if they were just left at the bottom of the ocean. So maybe its just me and other Titanic enthusiasts have a more concrete opinion, but I'm rather torn over this one.
 

JMGraber

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Apr 22, 2012
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Hello Adam, I'm curious on the wreck's condition because I don't have the most up to date information. What is the wreck's condition.
 

Adam Went

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Russell:

I understand where you're coming from. If there was nothing left at all, future generations might wonder why more of an effort wasn't made to salvage and restore pieces from the wreck. It's a stroke of luck in a way that Titanic is so unreachable by ordinary technology that she has been reasonably well preserved, unlike other wrecks such as the Lusitania. The question perhaps should be then, has enough been salvaged from the wreck or should future expeditions - presuming there will be some - still try to find and retrieve items?

JM:

To be fair, I don't know exactly what the condition of the wreck is right now either, as I'm not aware of any serious interest in it since the centenary three years ago. However, if you compare footage/photographs of the wreck from 1985, through to the GOTA expedition, up until more recently, it's definitely clear that portions of the wreck, particularly the decking is starting to really corrode and/or collapse. I know it was a concern even for the GOTA crew that if something gave way inside the wreck while the robots were exploring, it'd be a real disaster.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

JMGraber

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Apr 22, 2012
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Thanks for the response Adam. Personally, I do think that as much should be taken from the wreck as possible for museums, exhibits, and scientific research. The best way in my honest opinion to remember the story of the Titanic and the people who were involved with her is to collect artifacts. Yes, it is a grave and many of the artifacts were held by those who perished, but that can said for any site where there are artifacts of historical value. I would that any future artifacts that are taken are treated with care.
 

Adam Went

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Hi JM,

Very true. I think once again it becomes an issue of respect for the victims as well as collecting artefacts for the right reasons - i.e. education, preservation - as opposed to being a cash cow.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

themark1

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Jun 23, 2015
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Hello Adam,

According to me there is two biggest difference in to the number of passenger from the wreck site. I don't know exactly but wreck as possible for museums, exhibits, and scientific research.

Thanks
 

Adam Went

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Hi Themark,

So do you mean that you would like to see the wreck site used for something more interactive like a museum? If so, it's an interesting idea but sadly the Titanic is pretty much out of reach for ordinary technology. As a side note, there's been talk over the years of making the Britannic into something like that, as she is far more accessible to the public than Titanic. Anybody know what's happened to those plans?

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Scott Mills

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Jul 10, 2008
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The many personal items lying in the debris field are reminders that the Titanic site is one giant graveyard.
The wreck also symbolizes all feelings that disappeared with the ship, like a feeling of general safety and confidence, even hubris.
If I would have the chance, I would literally steal all salvaged items and dump them back into the Atlantic Ocean where they came from.
The only exceptions are salvaged items with scientific value, objects from the ship which can be used to get to know more about the Titanic and her foundering.

About wreck expeditions... If there are some locations inside the wreck that are yet to be visited, I would like to see that visit happen. But the expeditions better hurry, because the wreck is decaying so rapidly that soon there will be no more wreck to go inside.

Not that I disagree with this, but to be the advocate for the other side: at what point does something like this cease being a graveyard and start being an archaeological site? And it is not as if I'm comparing Titanic to the pyramids. Soldiers from the Great War have been dug from where they fell, and their things collected for historical value. In the United States this happens on national battlefields from the civil war often.

Are there not enough questions about the historical events of the Titanic disaster, particularly given the rapid rate of the wreck's decay, that recovering what we can for posterity outweighs the notion of "graveyard Titanic?" What better honors those who died, examining the wreck and recovering the items necessary to tell their stories before they are gone, or leaving it all to vanish from the lens of history forever?
 

Doug Criner

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I'm mindful of the international legalities involving a sunken warship that is later discovered. The legal title and jurisdiction for the sunken ship rests with the navy or country for which the ship served - whether the wreck is in international waters or in the domestic waters of some country uninvolved with the sinking. In all such cases that I am familiar with that involve war dead, the country with jurisdiction forbids any dismantling or entry into the wreck scene - even though there might be historical or commercial interest in doing so. Nautical charts often identify the location of such wrecks with a note forbidding their disturbance - I am familiar with some such charts around the British Isles.

I suppose that if an ancient wreck, say Phoenician or some no longer extant country, is discovered, then it does become an archeological site and is treated similar to a prehistoric site. If a modern, sunken, naval wreck is to be salvaged, then the human remains are removed and interred someplace and personal effects are preserved.

I think most people would believe this all seems well and proper for a warship. But, for some reason which I can't explain, a commercial wreck, such as Titanic, isn't necessarily accorded the same courtesy or respect.
 

Scott Mills

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I'm mindful of the international legalities involving a sunken warship that is later discovered. The legal title and jurisdiction for the sunken ship rests with the navy or country for which the ship served - whether the wreck is in international waters or in the domestic waters of some country uninvolved with the sinking. In all such cases that I am familiar with that involve war dead, the country with jurisdiction forbids any dismantling or entry into the wreck scene - even though there might be historical or commercial interest in doing so. Nautical charts often identify the location of such wrecks with a note forbidding their disturbance - I am familiar with some such charts around the British Isles.

I suppose that if an ancient wreck, say Phoenician or some no longer extant country, is discovered, then it does become an archeological site and is treated similar to a prehistoric site. If a modern, sunken, naval wreck is to be salvaged, then the human remains are removed and interred someplace and personal effects are preserved.

I think most people would believe this all seems well and proper for a warship. But, for some reason which I can't explain, a commercial wreck, such as Titanic, isn't necessarily accorded the same courtesy or respect.

Is that actually true? From my understanding RMS Titanic Inc. salvaged what it did of the wreck, because the RMS Titanic was not a naval vessel, and foundered in international waters, and therefore as a wreck was governed by the rights of salvage and not the laws of its country of registery.

And it's not universally the case that governments treat the wrecks of warships as grave sites. We simultaneously have no problem pulling up ships from say, the American Civil War (like the Hunley, or Monitor, etc) but have an issue with investigating the Titanic wreck site. Why? Similarly, unless they are in marked graves in national cemeteries, sites from the American Indian wars, the Great War, and the American Civil war, which contain war dead are dug all the time.

Personally, I am somewhere in-between positions. I think it is important to not disturb human remains on Titanic, but I also think it is important to learn as much as we can from, and try to preserve as best we can, the Titanic wreck before it's insights are lost to history forever.
 
J

Jack Dawson

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Hi all, there are several interesting points raised here. I don't really have an opinion, but just adding that the wreck of the battleship Arizona has not only been partially salvaged during WWII, but has been explored and surveyed via divers and remotely operated vehicles. They even found a uniform in a closet or wardrobe still hanging from a coat hanger. So exploration seems possible without stepping on too many toes? I don't know, but I thought it was worth adding to the discussion.
 

turricaned

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Apr 12, 2012
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As I understand it, the Titanic wreck site became a UNESCO World Heritage site almost as soon as it qualified to become one in 2012 - this effectively makes further physical salvage from the site forbidden. RMS Titanic Inc. switched from a policy of artefact recovery to one of observation, recording and mapping around the turn of the millennium, and indeed the complete mapping of the site performed around 2010 was performed by RMSTI with outside co-operation.

What happens to the site now is still uncertain. The argument put forward by the salvors in the '80s was that the ship's structure is deteriorating, and that is still true - though the degree of deterioration that is natural versus that caused by human interference is still somewhat contested. Dr. Ballard's vision for the site was to create an underwater museum, and part of that involved arresting the deterioration of the bow section by "painting" it with corrosion-resistant material. This is an interesting proposition and one I'd quite like to see happen, but while the technology to do such a thing does exist (though it hasn't been done at that depth), the cost would be tremendous.

With the site now thoroughly mapped and photographed to such an extent that a very faithful "virtual" expedition to the wreck is now possible (at least in terms of what one of the 'tourist' dives would have enabled you to see), it's arguable that the need to be physically present there to experience the wreck has diminished significantly.
 

Adam Went

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Turricaned, I agree with you that it would be fantastic to have such an underwater museum, but I fear that the interest is probably no longer around to make it achievable. Besides, it's too little, too late as far as trying to preserve the wreck goes - nature is taking its course and it's very noticeable how the wreck has deteriorated since 1985. In saying that, I am definitely an advocate of turning the Britannic into some sort of underwater museum - given its location and condition, it's far more practical. The idea has been put forward numerous times over the years but as with so many projects, seemingly little has come of it so far.

Anyhow, on a side note, thanks to everyone who is continuing to contribute to these old monthly topics.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

PRR5406

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Completely scan the debris field for artifacts visible or buried, as they sit, where they fell. Recover every last one, conserve them, store or display them, but never sell them (other than consumable coal). They serve nobody, White Star no longer owns them, the owners aren't coming back. Each individual who died in the Atlantic that morning, continues to live so long as we recall their experience and fate.
Honor them in that manner.
 

Adam Went

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I think the debris fields have already been pretty well raked through PRR, although salvaging the wreck continues to be a hot topic. Personally I don't have a problem with it as long as it's preserved for the sake of history and not used to make money.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

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