Taking more artifacts from the wreck


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Allison Lane

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(Wondering if this could be considered on topic for this subject)

Hi, I haven't posted here in a long time--my mail is backed up at least a week because I've been too lazy to read it--but I was just watching National Geographic Explorer, and today's topic was shipwrecks and salvage. I just knew they had to mentiont the Titanic, and they did. It was my first look at George Tulloch. Beforehand I simply didn't like him from reading about him; now I don't like the sight of him. I'm not against salvaging the wreck (I'm a little for that 'for posterity' argument) but I don't like Tulloch's motives and how he goes about it.

So did anyone else happen to watch this segment just now?


-Allison L.
(very tired and hoping she's making sense)
 
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Gavin Murphy

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I hope I am in the right place and am not going over old ground.

I need some clarification on the latest RMS dive to the T. Were artifacts taken only from the debris field? I have read a few postings on their website and it is not clear in my mind. If so, and they continue to maintain that position, how is the Big Piece justified? If not, then there is obviously a change in their original position, (not to mention in the internal structure of the organisation).

On that subject too, I note that the Sauders and Ken Marschall were at the latest dive. Now I know that THS is against retrieving artifacts and the above are (or were) Big Kahunas in the society. What gives? BTW, I gave up my THS membership in 2000 after being a faithful member, supporter and contributor for about 20 years.

Regards.

G
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Gavin, as far as I know, THS is still anti-salvage. I have a certain ambivalance to the idea myself, but my willingness to go for it goes only so far as to whatever is actually needed to promote scientific investigation. Beyond that, I just don't see the point.

FWIW, I don't think THS is all that influential in this matter. When you get right down to it, the courts have the final say.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Dear Gavin,

I have no idea if this is correct or not but it seems to me that the ship itself although primarily divided into two large parts had a third part which was smallish. I am not sure mind you but I believe that it is from this smaller piece that the "piece" of titanic was taken for examination. Perhaps this is considered a part of the debris field.

Maybe some folks more knowledgable than I could expound on this.
Maureen.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Hi Mo, I'll expound a little for whatever it may be worth. When the Titanic broke up, it was into two very large sections with a third not so large section being a portion of the double bottom which had been located slightly aft of the midships point. Smaller peices which broke away included sections of exterior hull plating which sank down into the debris feild. The 20 ton portion known as the Big Peice was one of these chunks.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Hey Michael!

Happy Veteran's Day to you!

Thanks for setting me straight. Pretty close though for a computer geek though right!?

Maureen.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Thanks, and you did a pretty good job getting the general details right.
happy.gif


The nice thing about being a computer geek is that you know how best to use the thing to get the most out of it.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Gavin Murphy

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Dear M&M,

Thanx for that clarification. But, is it still correct to say that what RMS is brnging up is STILL materials from the debris field?

Cheers, etc.

G
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Hi Gavin, RMS Titanic Inc. is bringing up stuff from the debris feild any time they mount an expedition,(Which is what they did this time) but what they WANT to do is start cutting into the wreck itself and salvage artifacts from the inside. The court overseeing this put a stop to that much.

I hope that the ruling holds up...and not just because I have some objections to such a thing from an arguably sentimental standpoint. Wreckdiving under the best of conditions is a dicey game. Do it at 12,500 ft with pessures of 6000 psi with a wreck as badly deteriorated and with as much structural damage as the Titanic and you have a phenomonally dangerous operation. One little mistake=instant death for the sub crew if/when the ship collapses around them because of the wrong cut in the wrong place.

Rather a high price to pay just to make a buck.
sad.gif


Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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Gavin Murphy

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Thanx Michael. Now explain something my pea brain cannot seem to figure out.

The wreck is in international waters, although considered part of Canada's economic zone (or someting like that).

A Norfolk court takes jurisdiction and says the ship belongs to RMS. How can this be? Has manifest destiny finally arrived in the Great White North?

Surely someone, especially a non-American, could dive to the wreck, scoop artifacts, and challenge that law. I think that is possible and it would then have to be seen if other countries would abide by that court's decision.

Help me out?

Regards,

G
 
Jul 9, 2000
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This is one of those Admiralty court things involving salvage laws and there are others here much better informed on this then I am. Dave Gittens could very likely tell you a hell of a lot more on this then I could, as could some of the practicing attorneys who are members here.

My understanding is that any abandoned vessel is pretty much open to salvage whether it's on the water or under it, and it's pretty much first come first served. Especially if the previous owners have renounced any claim to the vessel. There are, of course, exceptions to this. (The U.S. Navy for example retains title and ownership over all of it's wrecked vessels and they are not open to salvage)

All that aside, it should be remembered that as the White Star line was owned by J.P. Morgan's International Mercentile Marine, that the ship was American owned even though she was registered in Great Britain.

Now I'll step aside and let some real experts on Admiralty law explain things. I hope if I got anything wrong that they correct me and explain things in more detail.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 12, 2000
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I'm with Michael Standart on this one.

My guess regarding the rulings on the Titanic would probably cover financing and supplies as well. Which could impact a salvaging company. And it seems that the only ones willing to risk their necks for a piece of all of this are Americans. But I must agree with Michael, going down to the debris field was one thing, but risking life and limb toi head into the wreck is rather foolhearty in my opinion.

Maureen.
 
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Gavin Murphy

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M&M,

Thanx again. V. enlightening. I might buy in if it were truly in international waters. But if it is in Canadian territorial waters/economic zone (as ratified by the International Law of the Sea?), I think I still have problems. Query: Maybe the Americans are not signatories to it. I don't know why, but I seem to think so. Whether it is UK or American would seem secondary. It's where it went down, i.e. whose jurisdiction, and if it has been abandoned that would presumably be the main determining factors.

I should hasten to add I know zero on salvage law, but I think your general premise on the law is correct. I think it is called bona vacantia in legal terms. However, I further think under that principle, the Crown may have a right to ownership under UK law, regardless who discovered the wreck. Since Newfoundland was part of UK in 1912, only becoming part of Canada in 1949, should this principle apply? Don't know.......

Likewise, I am not clear how the Fr/UK/USA/Cda proposed law for protection of the T would apply. I suppose all ratify it, pass and/or incorporate into their domestic law and enforce in their courts. But if I were Greek (a great shipping nation) and that country did not want to enforce it, how would it apply to me? Presumably I could get away with scooping artifacts, assuming I was not taken into custody on site. But don't know again........ Also, if RMS is the true owner of the T, why the need for this provision? Help me out, etc.

Regards,

G
 
Jul 9, 2000
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For this, we'll have to wait on some bona fide legal experts, but to re-iterate one point, UK registered or not, the RMS Titanic was an American owned ship at the time she sank. How her status was changed once White Star reverted to British ownership, I can't say. If memory serves...and it may not...Cunard could have chosen to assert ownership since they ultimately bought the White Star line. Apparently, they chose not to.

In any event, whether we buy the legality of it or not, the cold facts are that the courts have spoken. Until somebody successfully contests it, we're stuck with the rulings and the consequences arising therefrom.

I beleive the United States is a signatory to the Law Of The Sea too.(I could be wrong) I recall an artical or two mentioning it in several issues of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Sep 12, 2000
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Hey there G, we may be M&M's but we are the nuts and you really need the milk chocolate ones on this technical legal eagle stuff. Well, this M of the M&M's anyway.

To my favorite M and G too. I am not sure about all the legal stuff either but technically the investment that JP Morgan made into Titanic's parent company was a trust. Trusts operate a little differently than does an out and out sale. Tax issues act differently in a trust as well. The interest that JP Morgan held was purely of a business/corporate nature but legal title does not change until the terms of the trust materialize, like a death in the case of a trust put in place by a parent. When the paretn dies someone keeps careful watch over the trust and supports the child. When the child reaches the age of maturity to receive the cash then the terms of the trust have materialized. It is a way for a business man to invest and get a deal on taxes in some cases. But not all trusts work this way.

Anyway, it would be nice to hear from the lawyer crowd here. Ijust know a lot of them.

Enjoy your day guys!
Maureen.
 
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Gavin Murphy

Guest
Dear M&M,

Now I never thought of the sweets. While we are now getting them up here in droves thanks to Free Trade, etc., we have traditionally had similar ones called Smarties. No kidding. If I eat them will I be smart? Don't know that one either.

A few points and then I will end this because, quite frankly, it is a v. complex area to be discussing without some expertise and I am the first to confess I don't know too much other than a gut feeling. My legal background has absolutely nothing to do with this field.

First of all, Michael, excellent points. But you say the courts have spoken. Query: Which ones? An American court in Virginia? What extra territorial application would that have in Canada/international waters? I think the real issue is that it is v. expensive to take out these expeditions and the Americans are the only ones prepared to put their money where there mouth is. Well here is a case in point of money talking. How could someone in Canada make a claim to ownership of the wreck if they don't have the funds to actually get there to stake their claim??

Secondly, while you are obviously right on the ownership bit, I think the point is that WSL/Cunard, etc. abandoned the ship, and never made a serious effort to claim ownership rights over it. In fact, the ownership would have passed to the insurance company that paid out the claims arising from the disaster. This co. went out of business so it was up for grads. RMS were not the first ones there, obviously Dr. Bob was. Maybe he should have claimed ownership. And, of course, it is not who owned the ship that really counts, it is where the disaster occurred from a legal and jurisdictional point. For example, who is taking jurisdiction over the Pam Am 747 disaster legal proceedings? The Scottish of course because the disaster occurred over Scotland, although the trial is in a neutral country, in this case Holland.

Thanx for the clarification of the Law of Sea.

Maureen, thanx for the helpful comments on how a trust works. Was IMM a trust or simply a huge combine...or both? (Somehow off the top of my head I think both.) If a trust, it would be interesting to know who were the beneficiaries. Surely JP could not have been both trustee and beneficiary. This is not legally possible. Regardless, I don't see the connection with the issue of jurisdiction. Have I missed something?

Regards,

G
 
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