Should they recover artifacts

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A recent UK documentary featuring Titanic buff James Cameron's last trip to see the wreck brought this subject up. Some scientists on board the search vessel were dismayed at the rapid deterioration of the structure and feared that artifacts that could be easily salvaged now will be lost forever in a few years time.
I'm a bit perplexed with otherwise rational people's quasi-religious fears of " disturbing the dead " and the idea of the wreck being a graveyard as if it were some corny John Carpenter schlock horror film.
Should we have left Ground Zero as it was on the 11th of Sept. in order to respect the dead?
We "desecrate" tragic death sites all the time.
I know Titanic is different in that the site is a frozen snapshot of 15th April 1912, but I can assure you there are no ghosts.

Better to save and preserve these artifacts for future students of this fascinating and absorbing slice of History.
>>Should we have left Ground Zero as it was on the 11th of Sept. in order to respect the dead?<<

I've encountered the odd person who asserted that we should do exactly that. Can't say as I agree with it. It's just there.
Well I'm torn when it comes to this. I think for many a person interested in Titanic, many of us have asked ourselves about this question at some time.

I guess if we could go back in time, it would be nice that the wreck or items scattered across the seabed floor not be disturbed, but since that didnt happen, its my hope that if they have to continue collecting artifacts, at least house all of them in a museum, in a tasteful fashion, for people to learn and see for themselves. As long as it doesnt interfere with the ship itself, as that would be another matter altogether.

Jason D. Tiller

Here's an article about artifacts being sold on the black market:


Picture this. It is 11:40 p.m., April 14, 1912.

You are one of the 1,523 people about to perish on the brand-new "unsinkable" Titanic, but you don't know it yet.

For the rest of the story, click here.​
Jason, there are about 18 different versions of the "black market" story. I uncovered it with the help of a couple of friends a few weeks ago, and the BBC asked for first rights to air it. Not only did they air it, but they did a wonderful job investigating it further in the UK. The BBC team that came here to interview me were top-of-the-line professionals.

Here's a link to the BBC documentary:

for the Link to the BBC program that investigated the rogue expedition.

To see the actual broadcast, click on the link under the picture of the ship's crew.

I will admit there are a few statements about me that aren't 'quite' accurate, but had to be altered due to legal advice. For example, I have been to the wreck site TWICE. I have never dived, and my ROV has only been ONCE.

But... after researching this story since 2003, it is GOOD to see the truth begin to come out. There will be more.


Jason D. Tiller

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your comments and the link. I'll have to take a look at that broadcast when I have some more time.

It's really unfortunate that there is no information as to how these artifacts ended up in private hands. Is the investigation still ongoing?


I have never dived, and my ROV has only been ONCE.

That was one thing I questioned, as to whether you had dived to the wreck site or not. I figured you hadn't, since I didn't recall seeing it posted here. I concur with you, it is enlightening to see that the truth is starting to come to light. I'll be watching for more.

Best regards,

Bill, my father showed me the BBC News Story about the apparent "rogue artifact retrieval expeditions" (MY TERM, ONLY). We saved the tape, as my father usually copies over each days' broadcast.

I enjoyed seeing your interview, and it's always a pleasure to see Millvina interviewed.

The one glaring error that I couldn't believe was shown was having Millvina listed as "The Last British Survivor", unless Barbara West died recently and nobody mentioned anything.
I'll be paying attention as well. I have no real quibbles with salvage and conservation when it's done by the numbers, but the prospect of rogue/pirate expeditions is another matter. It tramples on the legitimate interests of anyone who has any legal rights and it also destroys anything that might be taken for context from which we might learn something.

However, as Bill indicated in the article, the Atlantic Ocean is mighty difficult to police. It's not as if anyone can really afford to have a Coast Gaurd cutter or a warship watching over things 24/7.
hey everyone, this is my first post so please excuse my inquisitive, yet inexperienced questions!
i think i'm gonna do a paper in college about the titanic, and the question of morality regarding salvaging artifacts and stuff.
but i'm completely on the fence: first of all i think that its morally wrong for anyone to disturb the titanic, given that it is the grave of so many people, but on the other hand, if someone can learn about the titanic, and the people who died on it from these artifacts, etc, would it not be a good thing to raise the ship/artifacts ?
can anyone help with their opinions?

Jason D. Tiller

Hello Helen,

Welcome aboard. Personally speaking, I have no problem with the artifacts being raised if it's for the right reasons and at the same time paying respect to the passengers and crew that perished. I used to be a fence sitter as well on this, but that was before I came into contact with the artifacts. From my own personal experience, several years ago I worked at a Titanic Exhibition where we had over 200 artifacts displayed and many of those artifacts were able to provide more information about their respective owner, which otherwise may have been lost to history forever, including the artifacts themselves. The stories that they told were so interesting and very in depth, that it changed my opinion of salvage forever. To date, approximately 6000 artifacts have been raised from the wrecksite and a lot has been learned, so the recovery of them has been extremely valuable to researchers and historians alike. From a scientific and conservation point of view, it's important to retrieve as much as possible.

Some people in the Titanic community feel that nothing can be learned from the items, but I respectfully disagree as every artifact has a story to tell; it's just that some are much harder to unlock than others.

But, when there is talk of going into the wreck itself to salvage items, that's where I take issue. It's morally wrong and shouldn't be considered, plus the wreck would deteriorate a lot faster. There's also a safety issue as well, with regards to the submersibles and their crew.

As far as the ship being raised, that will never happen due to the fact that she is too far down at a depth of approximately 12,500 feet and would literally crumble like a cookie even before she reached the surface. So much iron has been eaten out of her by the rusticles over the years, that there would be nothing left. The only artifact that has been raised from the wrecksite currently that was actually a part of the ship, is the "Big Piece" which is a 20 tonne portion of the hull. It was raised on a second attempt in August 1998 after the first one failed two years earlier due to bad weather.

If I've forgotten anything, I'm sure someone else will chime in, but I hope this helps. All the best on your paper.
>>first of all i think that its morally wrong for anyone to disturb the titanic, given that it is the grave of so many people,<<

Why? I'm not trying to put you on the spot here, but in your paper, if this is the position you're going to take, you're going to be expected to make some very compelling arguements to defend it.

>>but on the other hand, if someone can learn about the titanic, and the people who died on it from these artifacts, etc, would it not be a good thing to raise the ship/artifacts ? <<

And I agree with that. For all that the Titanic is one of the most overdocumented shipwrecks of all time, there's a lot that wasn't known about the ship until somebody went down to have a look at it. There are some very smart dedicated people who are hard at work trying to remedy that. Parks Stephenson has been a part of it as has James Cameron, but I would also mention Bruce Beveridge and Steve Hall. The book they're writing on it...all drawn from surviving primary source going to put the Shipbuilder specials to shame. For all of that, some of their work would not have been possible had it not been for people going down in submersibles to have a good look at what's there.

While raising the ship is not even remotely possible, it is possible to recover artifacts of historical importance and I think this needs to be done.

>>can anyone help with their opinions?<<

I don't know about that. All any of us can do is offer arguements pro and con...and there's a lot of them out there...however, matters of opinion are highly subjective and there isn't always a black and white right or wrong answer to any of them. In the end, you'll have to weigh all the arguements and form your own opinion.

I wish you the best in that.

sharon rutman

Exactly why are we still debating this issue? The artifacts have been recovered--what's done is done. Helen, you're beating a dead horse. I saw nothing wrong with the salvage anyhow as long as the artifacts are properly cared for and displayed in a dignified manner. Holier than thou types are a real turnoff.

I have a better idea. Why not go to NYC and visit Ground Zero. Almost 3,000 people were killed there on 9/11/2001--nearly twice the number which perished on the Titanic. Yet, Ground Zero is the biggest tourist attraction in New York City--you should see the crowds who throng there to have a look. Do you think that's disrespectful? And a few blocks away in every direction are the schlockmeisters selling all sorts of World Trade Center souveniers. Do you think that's a bit tacky?
>>Exactly why are we still debating this issue? <<

I think perhaps because the issue is still out there, because there is always the possiblity of further salvage attempts and as a consequence, people tend to have some ethical concerns over that. That a lot of the work is already a done deal doesn't take away from that.
Thanks to all for your responses.
Can I just say to Sharon that I'm sorry for "still debating the issue". I'm 21 and have only recently taken a very keen interest into the Titanic and its' sinking. I don't know a lot about the issues that have been and are being debated about the salvage of artifacts. I wasn't disputing the fact that "whats done is done", I was disputing that was it right in an ethical sense to do it? But please excuse my ignorance.
I do agree with Michael when he says that "the issue is still out there" however. To be honest, I hadn't got a clue about how many, if any, artifacts had been recovered and how until recently, and one of the first things that came into my head was the question of ethics and morality in raising these things. In my own opinion, albeit inexperienced, this issue will never go away. The more people that want to learn about the Titanic, like myself, will ask this question over and over again.
Thanks to all opinions though, much appreciated, hel
>>Can I just say to Sharon that I'm sorry for "still debating the issue". <<

I don't see any reason why you should be. While it does help to get informed on something before forming an opinion, but it looked to me like you were trying to do just that.

That brings me to my main point: Never aplogogize for asking the tough questions or demanding some straightforward and honest answers. At the very least, you'll understand where everybody is coming from and why, and you just might learn something if you listen closely enough. It looks to me like this is your goal and there's nothing whatever wrong with that. That's how you learn things.

>>In my own opinion, albeit inexperienced, this issue will never go away.<<

Well, not anytime soon anyway. Sometime in the future when your bouncing your grandchildren on your bended knee, it'll all be settled or at the very least, few people will really care. I suspect the real issue then...and it's an on going concern now...will be the proper conservation, care and study of the artifacts that have already been recovered.

sharon rutman

Man, every museum throughout the world would be put out of business if they agonized over "graverobbing" charges. Thousands lined up years ago to see the King Tut exhibit. Shouldn't poor Tut have allowed to rest in peace instead of being viewed by lots of gawking strangers? Or is there something to be learned about the way the Ancient Egyptians lived by exhibiting Tut and other artifacts? And don't listen to holier than thou Bob Ballard. if I hear that stale story about "belt buckles on the Arizona" one more time, I'll scream! Ballard is the ultimate hypocrite on salvage--he pontificates about how sacred Titanic's artifacts, yet he's also a marine archaeologist. He's gone on many expeditions to find relics and artifacts and bring them back to the surface.
I can completely see your point about how "every museum throughout the world would be put out of business if they agonized over "graverobbing" charges.".
However, I read on another discussion page that a boot from a passenger who died on the Titanic had been brought up.
I think I now realise that some artifacts that have been recovered can teach us something, but what can we learn from a boot that was worn by someone when they died on Titanic?
I think my question should have been along the lines of where should we have drawn the line about salvaging artifacts?
>>And don't listen to holier than thou Bob Ballard.<<

Why not? Whether or not he's "Holier then thou" has nothing to do with whether or not he's right or wrong on a given matter. Whether or not he deserves it, he does have some infulance in this controversy. When somebody's word carries some weight, it's risky to ignore it.

>>He's gone on many expeditions to find relics and artifacts and bring them back to the surface.<<

Yes he has, and that's a fair point in my opinion.

sharon rutman

So how come Titanic's artifacts, boots and all, are sacred? No one has explained that to me yet. Why are Titanic's artifacts different than those found in other shipwrecks? Bob Ballard is the marine explorer who found Titanic's wreck way back in 1985 over the Labor Day weekend.
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