To salvage or not to salvage the moral dilemma

Jun 12, 2004
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The mistake here appears to be in the assumption that the public at large shares our interest.
Not by me. Several of my friends from college thought I was "weird" because I was interested in Titanic; they just couldn't understand what the fascination was with it. I certainly do not expect everyone to see Titanic the same way as enthusiasts do, especially since the event happened nearly a century ago. I guess the same thing would go for any historical event, and basically for the same reasons.

Still, if yet another film incarnation were to emerge around the centennial anniversary--and I wouldn't be surprised if one did--I'm sure another surge of interest will take off, although not on permanent basis.​
 

Bob Godfrey

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A good measuree of the level of public interest in the Titanic is the rate of posting here on ET in the Guestbook. Five years ago in the first four months of 2003 there were more than 500 postings. Over the same period this year there have been less than 10.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Hi Mark, you're quite right, I am not a believer. I hadn't realised I'd made it quite so obvious, though now I come to think of it I do remember Dave Gittins saying on another thread that he'd see me in Hell, and to be sure to bring the toasting fork, and he'd bring the marshmallows... so I suppose that must have given it away somewhat.

However, that has nothing to do with my remarks about salvage. I was merely pointing out the illogicality and inconsistency of people being happy to salvage other older wrecks, whilst according a different status to the Titanic.

As a for instance, how do you feel about this? A British archaeological team was recently invited to northern France to excavate a downed WW2 Spitfire, in which the crew perished in the 1940s. It was buried about 5 metres. They dug up all the bits they could find, including the pilot's helmet and identity tags, which they gave to his grateful brother. I'm all for respecting the dead and for re-burying them if excavated, after examination - which by and large we do. But even if you are religious, their souls aren't there, surely? And, having experienced the sadness of a house sale after my parents died, I still say I'd be rather pleased if anyone treasured any of my belongings after I'm gone.

By the way, Bob, I think you've made a mistake re the Zippo. There's no way Capt. Smith would have had one of those, and my researches lead me to believe it was in fact a Dunhill Sporting Gents model designed to light cigars in the face of a bitter east wind gale whilst out shooting on the moors. Just thought I'd mention that.
 

Bob Godfrey

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The Captain's Zippo isn't authentic? That's not what you said when you sold it to me, Mon! In that case I want my money back for Molly Brown's Ipod too.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Unfortunately, Bob, I spent your money on my new mobile, which you still seem incapable of ringing successfully, by the way.
 

Bob Godfrey

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You know I have problems with this new-fangled wireless telephony, Mon. Whatever happened to the good old Penny Black?
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Never mind the Penny Black, or even the Penny Red (I have three, incidentally, which you might be interested in buying).

I have changed the phone from vibrate to a very loud electronic version of YMCA, and I am prepared to sit in the train and endure this humiliation if it means I don't have to wait for hours in the wind and rain at our destination.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Well, how was I to know you meant Waterloo Station. I was waiting for you in Belgium. And it was wet and windy there, too. At least you had some decent pubs to wait in.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Indeed, the pubs you recommended afforded Paul, Carol and I a very good day indeed, though we did give up waiting after just 30 minutes. Pity you missed it.

Have just unearthed a Penny Black from the stamp collection. Hurry - it's going on EBay soon.
 

Bob Godfrey

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I'm not falling for that again. The last Penny Black you sold me was clearly not the real deal. I used it to send you a postcard from Belgium and had it returned marked 'insufficient postage'.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Still, if yet another film incarnation were to emerge around the centennial anniversary--and I wouldn't be surprised if one did--I'm sure another surge of interest will take off, although not on permanent basis<<

It'll probably take off, film or not, simply because it's the centennial. Popular trends and fashions seem to thrive on nice even numbers or catchy phrases such as Silver, Gold, Diamond, or Platinum Anniversery.
 

Paul Rogers

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Hello Bob.

"But if you want to know these things (and I know you do, Paul) you'll need to buy a copy of my book Tobacco Retailing on the Great Ocean Liners..."

Thanks for sharing that but I borrowed your earlier edition from Mon: Tobacco Retailing On Liverpool Liners and I have to say I was disappointed. Quoting a price for Woodbines that includes a discount - without stating exactly what the discount was - hardly answers the question extant. I will not tolerate that, so please don't underestimate my intelligence.

As for Captain Smith's Zippo, I thought it had been confiscated by port security at So'ton, and thus lost forever?
 
Jun 12, 2004
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It'll probably take off, film or not, simply because it's the centennial. Popular trends and fashions seem to thrive on nice even numbers or catchy phrases such as Silver, Gold, Diamond, or Platinum Anniversary.
The publishers will keep the public apprised of these anniversaries, as these a flood of books tend to serve as a visual reminder to even those who aren't enthusiasts.

I still wouldn't be surprised if yet another film were slated for that year. Perhaps this time Hollywood will use someone like Zack Efron. As long as there are young heart-throbs, Titanic movies, it seems, will never go out of style.

In any case, the degree of interest appears to have a direct effect over Titanic salvage moral issues. Some trends are/can be influenced as much by the general public's lack of interest as by enthusiasts' involvement.

Monica, thank you for the thoughtful commentary. I fully intend to address it, but some personal obligations have pulled me from the forum today. I will get to it as soon as possible.


I don't mean to be rude, and I know that drifting occurs, but might I suggest to Monica and Bob to take their off-topic spiel to private email so the thread may be used for a discussion on salvage? Thanks!​
 
Jan 28, 2003
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You're right, Mark, and I'm sorry. However, it's not personal. Anyone hoping to meet up with Bob needs to know he's likely to end up in the next country.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Okay, I DO have a little time, so I'll address it now . . .


Monica:


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so I suppose that must have given it away somewhat.
Actually, I noticed it prior to that point, since probably 2004, not too long after I joined. It has jumped out in several discussions.


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However, that has nothing to do with my remarks about salvage.
And I didn't say it did. Such spiritual aspects do play a part in my commentary, however, as this is a part of who I am.

Let's take for example the 3C child's boots, which were recovered some time ago. We'd each have something different to say about them: Michael would possibly see just a pair of boots through a perspective of purely scientific objectivity (not that I'm saying you'd shrug off the human factor, though, Michael), whereas I see a little boy, one long-since dead, but still a little boy. These boots are all that is physically left of him; he died wearing these boots. How can I not see him when looking at them. I am not personifying the boots, but I am giving them a human face, which is what I do when assessing anything--a razor, Sloper's bowler, even a mattress. From which cabin and class did it originate? Who used it last? What were that person's dreams while sleeping in it? Of course, this even goes for non-Titanic items as well. I was born and grew up with an extremely creative mind, an imagination, and so my views will be filtered through that. Yes, I keep my feet planted firmly in the real world, but I look beyond the physical to see more. Two human beings are built primarily the same--a head, two arms, two legs, ten fingers, ten toes--but each one has a totally different personality with a totally unique background. I can't ignore that when looking at something, anything, related to a particular person. That is who I am.

And I don't thing that taking into account the human factor is non-scientific. Irrational? Perhaps. Realistic? . . . that might be left to the relative view of the individual. What might seem real to you might not be to me and vice versa. We can, however, learn more about an item by going beyond its physical composition: Who wore the boots? From which class did he come? What was his family like? What were his dreams and ambitions in life? These questions can lead us to find a story behind the boots, just like we did with Brown's pocket watch and Eugene Daly's bagpipes. Viewing these items as just "a pair of boots" or "just a pocket watch" or "just a set of bagpipes" is extremely limiting to me because that says absolutely nothing.

As a matter of fact, my entire family has high creative and analytical intelligence. My 13-year-old daughter is on the verge of graduating high school and has been accepted to college, but that's a different story altogether. Needless to say, she and I are the same in our approach to viewing and studying such things.


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I was merely pointing out the illogicality and inconsistency of people being happy to salvage other older wrecks, whilst according a different status to the Titanic.
Oh, I wholeheartedly agree! Titanic should not be held in exclusion from, say, the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor, or the Lusy, or those WWII war planes found off the coast of China (I think that's where they're located). They should all be placed in the same light and treated with the same degree of dignity.

I think in Titanic's case all the hype over the years has put it seemingly in a spotlight all its own, whether right or wrong. This might cause people to see this particular wreck differently than any other, as if it were something above and beyond the rest. In all truth, Many tragedies since the Titanic have claimed far more victims: the Lucy, the Empress of Ireland, and, most recently, 9/11. That doesn't make the Titanic's losses less significant, though.


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But even if you are religious, their souls aren't there, surely?
Perhaps not, but such remains were at one time humans with souls, families, hopes, dreams, ambitions . . . This all comes through to me when viewing a body or items related to that person. That's natural for me.

And, yes, that sounds like an interesting story. Examining the bodies is a respectful way to handle the dead before burial, which is necessary, as we need to learn as much as we can about who they were and how they died. There's nothing unsanctifying about that.


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I still say I'd be rather pleased if anyone treasured any of my belongings after I'm gone.
So would I! That's among the most respectful acts toward the dead that anyone can assume. That shows that others valued who I was when alive and remember me fondly. Knowing this, I could rest in peace.
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Dec 2, 2000
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>>(not that I'm saying you'd shrug off the human factor, though, Michael), <<

I wouldn't. However, even seen through an objective scientific lens, the shoes would still tell a very human story. The story of a life lived and lost before it ever really had a chance to bloom, and all because of human foolhardiness.

Those shoes didn't end up there because everything was done right. They ended up there because on a fundemental level, something was done which was very wrong.
 

Bob Godfrey

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"I don't mean to be rude" ...

Don't hold back on our account, Mark. A man should make use of his God-given talents.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Wandering back to the original topic - salvage - the moral dilemma - I do wonder what this actually means.

Obviously, moral dilemmas concern only those who are alive now, as they are the only ones who can make decisions. But to whom does our moral conscience owe the most allegiance? To future generations, or to past ones? This matters, as it means we might have to 'disrespect' past generations in order to benefit future ones. I don't have a problem with this as I think one must look only to future generations, but I think others here might disagree.

Take stem cell research. Nature (or God) is extremely profligate in that for every one of us conceived and born, millions of potential human beings simply never came into existence. We were lucky. And we are the ones left with the moral decision about when souls inhabit an embryo, and whether stem cell research is ethical. It's a difficult issue whether one is devout or atheist.

The Titanic however does not pose such difficult moral issues. There are no bodies to be defiled, and there are no engineering issues to be resolved through research. All that is left is sheer interest, and nobody - in my opinion - should be castigated for that, as it is the one thing that got us humans out of ghastly caves and into agriculture, towns and cities. The incurable instinct to plod over the next hill, think that there must be a better way surely, and believe that things can only get better.

The dead are gone, but we can't say we know how they'd feel about their graves and artifacts being excavated or retrieved.

Having said all this, however, I'm not sure I really like poor Tutankhamun's mummy being put on display in Egypt. There are limits.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>and there are no engineering issues to be resolved through research.<<

Don't be so sure, Monica. From a forensics angle, there are plenty of questions that have yet to be resolved. That's why going down at least for a look matters. You can't even hope for answers to such questions unless you go down and look for the evidence.

The wreck still has a lot to say.

Likewise, as I pointed out way earlier in the thread, if the primary objective is preservation, then that makes salvage and conservation an imperative. Leaving everything in situ is not preservation. Time and salt water will eventuslly destroy the lot.