To salvage or not to salvage the moral dilemma

Jun 12, 2004
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quote:

Should we have reverence for an auto wreck because people died in it? Maybe while their remains are still inside, but once they've been removed, whether by the hand of man or the forces of nature, it's just scrap metal.”￾
Should there be a time limit on any particular location at which a person has died before we no longer consider it sanctified? Some places, such as the location where the Twin Towers used to stand, still draw people who reflect on the loss. The remains have been removed and buried elsewhere, but the location is still revered because of what had happened there. Several sites are like this. The collapse of the bridge connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul took many lives. This location would undoubtedly, too, continue to draw those who will see the place as worthy of reflection and sanctity, even though the victims have since been buried elsewhere.

I think a large part of this falls into memories. People remember where tragedies have occurred, and they seem to hold those places as special to them because of the impact that past incidents that have cost lives.

One example would be the site of the Titanic sinking. Many captains, at least at one time, have tried to steer clear of this area because of their memory of the tragedy. Sailing over the spot has tended to be too painful to some because of this. Yes, this is irrational, but memories affect human behavior in ways that quite often go beyond reason.

By the way, Michael, in case you're wondering, I read this recently in a few articles regarding the Titanic sinking and the indelible impression it has left on people. This resonates as true with me, because certain places that have served as the settings for bad experiences in my life have stuck out in my mind, although I do realize that such events are long-past. They still leave an impression on me whenever I visit them, and I hold a kind of awe toward these locations because of the effect that their memory has had on my life. One is the now-closed train depot where my father was killed 43 years ago.​
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Paul,

This is a discussion, and I don't want to get into an argument with anyone. Discussions have no "winners" or "losers," just sharing of thoughts and ideas.

I feel like I am being attacked for something I said on-the-rush earlier, whether right or wrong. This, I feel, is unjustified.

Regardless of whether or not I "answered the question incorrectly"--and it appears that I have (my apologies)--I have the right to respond as I see fit to anything posted, as long as my responses are not obscene or disrespectful, which is what I did. I am not out-of-line for doing that, so please do not try to shame me for expressing myself just as everybody else does.

The comment I made, as phrased, however, appeared to "answer" your question. This wasn't specifically what it was intended to do. It's called stream-of-consciousness in writing, and I tend to do that.

Also, please do not bring intelligence into this, as it is irrelevant. That only shows that one person is attempting to strike blows at the character of another instead of addressing issues (whether intended or not, that's the way it appears), and for what? It isn't worth it. Such a comment was not necessary and should not have been made.

By the way, that earlier comment regarding "creative and analytical intelligence" was, again, stream-of-consciousness and not a "self-confession"--I was referring to my daughter. Think before commenting on ANYTHING that I write.

In any case, I ended that line of discussion. This isn't the topic at-hand, so please drop it and move on.

Thank you.

I will not respond to the "foetus" or "submarine" line of discussion again.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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No, Mark, you didn't. You answered my question to Jeff incorrectly because you didn't read the post properly.
This is an incorrect assessment of my comment and why I wrote it.

Paul, instead of criticizing me for being "wrong" and then cutting into me for comments or allusions that I'd made, why didn't you just calmly and simply inquire as to what I was referring? That would have been more productive and less ugly. Others have done that with me before and I have politely come back and explained my comments, without incident.

For an example of this, see Bob's comment in this thread regarding the "vote of confidence". He was at a loss to understand what I meant and more or less inquired as to what I was referring. I replied politely in kind.

This is a preferable route, especially in cases where one cannot read another person's mind and has no clue as to what that person is thinking.

And to think, you've wondered why I tend to get defensive with certain people . . .


Okay, my apologies to everyone else. May we continue on the topic at-hand without further disruptions?​
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>They are not people: they are foetuses.<<

A thorny issue to be sure and I would say downright incendiary. Since this one touches on contemporary politics, I think it would be best to steer well clear of this.

The question of submarines as graves may however by appropriate, if only because sunken warships enjoy a protected status not only as the property of the government which owned her, but often as legally defined war graves.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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The question of submarines as graves may however by appropriate, if only because sunken warships enjoy a protected status not only as the property of the government which owned her, but often as legally defined war graves.
This is sort of why I suggested that sealing up the subs was for the purpose of defining a grave, but I misunderstood the when here. I presume that these subs were/are sealed after sinking as opposed to pre-prep, which wouldn't make any sense at all.

In any case, I can understand why these ships would be considered legally graves, although I don't agree that they should be held exclusive exceptions to other types of ships, like Titanic, Lucy or, say, fishing boats. All deaths at sea should be acknowledged respectfully.

Thinking about it, though, considering that warships are the property of the government of the nation they once represented, plundering them would be illegal, and salvage would be decided by the said government. This is especially ideal with regards to sunken weapons, such as nuclear devices, deadly chemicals or a ship's construction designs, all of which could be obtained by other militaries should no laws be in place to protect them.​
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>This is especially ideal with regards to sunken weapons, such as nuclear devices, deadly chemicals or a ship's construction designs, all of which could be obtained by other militaries should no laws be in place to protect them.<<

Tell that to the CIA. They weren't in any sense bothered by that when they sent the Glomar Explorer to recover that sunken Soviet missile sub.

That said, with older vessels, the question is entirely moot since the details of how most of these ships were built can be had through Amazon.com if you know what sort of books to look for. However, there is the question of on board munitions which can be a real hazard. The explosive fillers used in the ammunition of World War I or II era vessels isn't exactly renowned for retaining stability over time.

It just goes to show that as often as not, with an old warship, the issue is less a matter of respect for the dead as it is keeping the living from getting dead!
 

Bob Godfrey

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>>For an example of this, see Bob's comment in this thread regarding the "vote of confidence". He was at a loss to understand what I meant and more or less inquired as to what I was referring. I replied politely in kind.<<

Mark, I want to make it quite clear that I did NOT intend to offer you a 'vote of confidence' in response to a critical remark you made following a brief (and hopefully amusing) exchange between myself and another member. Nor did I intend, as you have suggested, to offer you or anyone else encouragement to post without regard for the potential to cause offence or annoyance. But neither would I discourage other posters, by suggesting for instance that they "take their off-topic spiel to private email". It's not for us to determine what should or should not be posted by others, Mark. That's why we have moderators.
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Jan 28, 2003
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Pegging away at morality ...

Bob wondered why a grave marked with a cross is more worthy of respect than that of an ancient heathen? Well, to my mind, it isn't. Every religious person today is an atheist in respect of every other religion except their own, and some of us just go one step further. Morality (religious and/or temporal) has been used to civilise us (live harmoniously together), to oppress us (feudal system, slavery etc.), and to confuse us (this thread).

I don't suppose any of us are going to get it absolutely right, but I am interested in the ideas of creative morality, in which the human origins of morality are explored (McNiven et al). Eliot Deutsch said,

One of the most difficult problems for much ethical theory is to delimit or mark off ethical actions - actions with ethical content from other kinds of actions. But, when moral judgement proper is understood to be directed to the formed content of an action and to be a discernment of the relative degree of personhood and freedom that is embodied therein and extended thereby, then clearly there is no need to arbitrarily mark off a special area of action for moral judgement.

I think this suggests something compassionate about peoples' desire to salvage Titanic artifacts.
 
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Jeff Kelley

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“This is one of the important questions regarding Titanic salvage: Should shoes and boots be considered human remains, despite the fact that they are not actually part of what was once a living organism? They are, at least, an indicator of where a human once lay. Again, perhaps that consideration should be left to the perspective of the individual. Physically, they are shoes/boots, but on a human level . . .”￾

This certainly is a compelling and defensible argument, but there are of course considerations for another perspective. For example, we can not necessarily distinguish between shoes that were left there after a body disappeared and shoes that were not being worn at the time of the sinking (cargo, luggage, etc.). Also, even to the extent that these shoes were being worn when the ship sank, they represent the place of death, not an intended resting place. To draw upon the roadside fatality analogy, the crash site is not considered a gravesite. Even if the wreck goes undiscovered for a period of time (as do some airplane crash sites), the remains are removed and the site does not become a gravesite. For that matter, even in the case of the Titanic shoes, the “site”￾ is probably the area around the ship, not the ship itself.

Back to the WTC analogy, many remains were never recovered, which means that the bodies were basically pulverized (sorry for the graphics) in/by the wreckage. The shreds of clothing or an occasional bones were recovered and removed. The WTC site will be built upon again. Much like a battlefield, the site will be revered, but will return to use as something other than a permanent memorial.

It is easy for me to understand why some people want to make the Titanic a shrine or gravesite of sorts in honor of the dead. But, I also would not pass on a chance to pull a handful of gold doubloons from a pirate shipwreck. I am not sure where the distinction would be, other than the fact that the Titanic’s victims were innocent passengers and the pirates were nasty criminals. But, I am not sure that is enough to justify the difference in approach.
 

Paul Rogers

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Mark:

"Regardless of whether or not I "answered the question incorrectly"--and it appears that I have (my apologies)--I have the right to respond as I see fit to anything posted, as long as my responses are not obscene or disrespectful, which is what I did. I am not out-of-line for doing that, so please do not try to shame me for expressing myself just as everybody else does."


I would refer you to an earlier comment that you made to me on this thread, as follows:
quote:

...this is a public forum, and as such anyone can respond to anything posted. That's the nature of a public forum.
I would add that, if one posts something that is inconsistent, illogical or just plain incorrect, one should expect to be challenged (as I have been so challenged in the past). I was certainly neither obscene nor disrespectful, although avoiding the use of personal invective did cost me some considerable effort.


"Also, please do not bring intelligence into this, as it is irrelevant. That only shows that one person is attempting to strike blows at the character of another instead of addressing issues (whether intended or not, that's the way it appears), and for what? It isn't worth it. Such a comment was not necessary and should not have been made."


Actually, I didn't bring your intelligence into this thread: you did. An earlier post from yourself stated:
quote:

As a matter of fact, my entire family has high creative and analytical intelligence.
I fail to see how my comment, which merely repeated one of your own, falls under the heading of: "...attempting to strike blows at the character of another..."


"Paul, instead of criticizing me for being "wrong" and then cutting into me for comments or allusions that I'd made, why didn't you just calmly and simply inquire as to what I was referring? That would have been more productive and less ugly. Others have done that with me before and I have politely come back and explained my comments, without incident."


As it was obvious what you were referring to and therefore no clarification was required, I chose to - calmly and simply - point out your error. I am sure that you would have gladly done me a similar service, had I been the one in error.​
 

Paul Rogers

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Hello Jeff.

"I am not sure where the distinction would be, other than the fact that the Titanic�s victims were innocent passengers and the pirates were nasty criminals."

Arrrr, ye scurvy dog! Don't ye be bad-mouthing pirates, if ye knows what is good for ye! ;-) There be some religions that honour pirates, such as this one!

"We can not necessarily distinguish between shoes that were left there after a body disappeared and shoes that were not being worn at the time of the sinking (cargo, luggage, etc.). Also, even to the extent that these shoes were being worn when the ship sank, they represent the place of death, not an intended resting place. To draw upon the roadside fatality analogy, the crash site is not considered a gravesite. Even if the wreck goes undiscovered for a period of time (as do some airplane crash sites), the remains are removed and the site does not become a gravesite. For that matter, even in the case of the Titanic shoes, the �site� is probably the area around the ship, not the ship itself."

Very interesting points, Jeff.

Would it be a fair generalisation to say that, in the past, shipwrecks became seen as grave sites when there was no possibility of recovering the victims? Through inability (as opposed to intent) the wreck became a "final resting place" and was therefore treated with due respect. If, however, the dead were recovered, the shipwreck in question ceased to hold any special significance.

As Jeff pointed out, how should we view the Titanic wreck bearing in mind that the majority of her victims did not actually die aboard the ship?
 
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Jeff Kelley

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“Would it be a fair generalisation to say that, in the past, shipwrecks became seen as grave sites when there was no possibility of recovering the victims? Through inability (as opposed to intent) the wreck became a "final resting place" and was therefore treated with due respect. If, however, the dead were recovered, the shipwreck in question ceased to hold any special significance.”￾

I think this is getting closer to the practical determination that generally seems to be made in these cases. Of course, things start to get tricky as advancing technology expands opportunities for recovery. Things get trickier still when the passage of time renders the human remains non-existent and there is nothing left to recover and so the decision seems to become a moot point.

Back to submarines — sometimes when there was no compelling reason to undertake the risk or expense of a recovery operation the sub would be sealed as a war grave, for example, but add a sensitive technology (or nuclear weapon) and that sunken sub is not so hallowed after all. In these cases, the remains are usually re-buried at sea (the Soviet sailors) or perhaps on land — maybe that is what makes it more acceptable?

Or consider Pompeii — the city, including the casts of victims whose shapes but not remains were preserved in the lava, is now a tourist attraction.

As for shipwrecks, it seems to me that most involved a loss of life, and yet many/most do not elicit the same reaction as the Titanic. The Andrea Doria, for example, is a popular diving destination, and as many artifacts are brought up as can be retrieved. The wreck continues to claim lives to this day and yet it is not seen as a grave site by most people.

How to distinguish? I wish I knew the answer. It is an ethicist’s nightmare (or maybe dream).
 
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Jeff Kelley

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I meant to also mention Mt. Everest. People periodically die in attempts to reach the summit and their bodies are often left there indefinitely/permanently because it is too difficult to bring them down. Is the mountain a gravesite, at least until the bodies are removed and re-interred elsewhere? Their existence on the trails serves to remind climbers of the dangers but the trails and camps are still used just the same.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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In the grand scheme of things, no resting place can be final. All remains eventually go back into circulation one way of another, and most people I think are less inclined to let the dead stand (or rather lie) in the way of progress for the living once a suitable interval of time has passed - generally three or four generations, sufficient time for those who actually knew the deceased to have themselves passed from the land of the living. In the late 19th century during the construction of St Pancras Station (one of the great London rail termini) some 8,000 bodies, some of which were quite recent interments, were removed from their 'final' resting place in the local churchyard to more convenient resting places far away which didn't stand in the path of a revolution in public transport. Even very recently, St Pancras Churchyard has grown even smaller as more land has been acquired for civil engineering projects and more batches of bodies have been evicted. On these more recent occasions the bodies (some of which are themselves almost as 'recent' as the Titanic) have been subjected to what might be regarded as the indignity of close examination by archaeologists and historians armed with cameras and calipers.

Even the earliest of the St Pancras exhumations were conducted with a degree of respect, but it has often been impossible to disinter bodies as individual units, particularly those which had been buried without coffins in ground 'saturated with decomposition'. Thus many of the removals were not of bodies as such but of batches of assorted human remains, and more often than not their tombstones were destroyed in the process or put to some practical use elsewhere. Thomas Hardy, who was one of the team which supervised the original excavations at St Pancras, summed up his observations in the poem The Levelled Churchyard:

We late-lamented, resting here,
Are mixed to human jam,
And each to each exclaims in fear
"I know not which I am!"

Where we are huddled none can trace,
And if our names remain,
They pave some path or porch or place
Where we have never lain!

If we're prepared to allow, for our own convenience, the disturbance and often disintegration of the bodies of thousands of ordinary and often anonymous Londoners, should we feel differently about the remains of people who died in shipwrecks? Is there something special about such deaths and such remains? I have no strong views either way, just offering food for thought.
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Jeff Kelley

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I can attest somewhat to the sometimes ugly realities of handling human remains.

While in school my summer job was at the town cemetery. Most of our time was spent cutting grass, but there was the occasional hole to dig. Once, when digging in the small section reserved for those whose families (if they had one) could not afford to buy a plot, we came cross a skeleton when clearing out the bottom of the grave. It was speculated that it was one of several Indian skeletons that had been unearthed decades before during nearby road construction and relocated to where we found it, in an unmarked grave. We were instructed to discreetly position it to the side of the hole so the cement vault could be put in place for the new occupant.

It wasn’t done with any disrespect (since thankfully I talked my digging partner out of his plan to steal the skull for his fraternity), but what we were instructed to do was the most practical, expedient, and realistic.
 
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Jeff-

quote:

We can not necessarily distinguish between shoes that were left there after a body disappeared and shoes that were not being worn at the time of the sinking (cargo, luggage, etc.).
Actually, you can. If the shoes are situated side-by-side or in a manner consistent of a resting body, that's indicative to what was once human remains. Ballard pointed this out several times in reference to a number of his photos depicting these pairs of shoes illustrated in his Discovery of The Titanic.

Is it likely that shoes/boots from cargo or storage (or even some closet from an obliterated cabin) would have fallen and landed in such a manner, unless their laces were tied together? Of course, a closer observation would discern whether this had been the case or not. If the laces are not tied . . . There you go! Although there would be some room for error, what are the chances?


Paul-

I know that it has been a couple of weeks, but I apologize for heating up in my previous posts. I realize what you were attempting to do, and you were in the right to do so. I guess I was offset because you seemed to have come off a bit antagonistic or confrontational. With all due respect, you do tend to come off that way at times, whether it is intended or not. In any case, all is past, and so I have let it drop. I just thought a public apology was due.​
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Jeff-

quote:

Also, even to the extent that these shoes were being worn when the ship sank, they represent the place of death, not an intended resting place.
In Titanic's sake, I would say that "intended" is inconsequential. How could such a term as "intended" be even applicable in the case of the Titanic sinking, which in itself was an unexpected event? The fact remains that these were the resting places for many of those on board. Should they be be treated less so because they were "unintended" in nature?


quote:

To draw upon the roadside fatality analogy, the crash site is not considered a gravesite. Even if the wreck goes undiscovered for a period of time (as do some airplane crash sites), the remains are removed and the site does not become a gravesite.
Again, this doesn't apply to Titanic, since the bodies at the bottom where not found or retrieved before total decomposition. I repeat: Does this make the site less of a gravesite simply because many other sites had their human remains retrieved at an earlier point in time?

In my opinion, Titanic should be treated uniquely, just as several other crash sites should.


quote:

For that matter, even in the case of the Titanic shoes, the �site� is probably the area around the ship, not the ship itself."
Well, chances are that many of the victims went down inside the ship, too. Why, then, should the ship itself be exempt from being considered a gravesite or part of a larger gravesite?

In my opinion, just because no shoes/boots were discovered inside the wreck deoesn't mean that people didn't meet their end there. The one salvage rule established--Do not remove anything from inside the ship--seems to reflect on this consideration, among others.


Paul--

quote:

As Jeff pointed out, how should we view the Titanic wreck bearing in mind that the majority of her victims did not actually die aboard the ship?
We don't know this as a fact. Most of the victims' remains were never retrieved. This suggests that many probably did go down inside. Even if "most" didn't, should the wreck itself be treated less respectfully because "only a few" victims went down inside? If one victim went down inside the hull, the ship should be treated as a gravesite.

Several sources suggest that some did die inside the ship. One example would be a travelling mate of Canadian Thompson Beattie (I forgot the man's name; Jason, can you please help me here?), who was believed to have died in his bed. Another example would be the Italian stewards from the restaurant who, it was said, were ushered to a cabin on E-Deck aft and locked inside. I don't know if the latter is true, but we can't really say it didn't happen, either.

Considering this, it is reasonable to presume that victims went down inside--1 or 800, it doesn't matter. It would still be considered a gravesite by definition.


Yes, I did read through all of the posts. I just felt like making my own points.​
 
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Things get trickier still when the passage of time renders the human remains non-existent and there is nothing left to recover and so the decision seems to become a moot point.
Not disregarding Bob's post, when bodies in a cemetery have turned to dust or even bones, should the graveyard be considered with less respect or less sacred? The area where bodies have been entered, even after the bodies themselves have gone, is considered hallowed ground. Yes, I speak from a deist POV, but it is, in my opinion, still a valid one.


quote:

In the grand scheme of things, no resting place can be final. All remains eventually go back into circulation one way of another . . . In the grand scheme of things, no resting place can be final. All remains eventually go back into circulation one way of another.
I disagree. Flesh, bones or dust, these places designated for internment are considered sacred. True, in some cases, such as in archeological digs, we unearth human bones for the purpose of study. This, as I have stated above, is not necessarily disrespectful, as such an action has an honorable purpose.

Cemeteries and graveyards are different because they were intended as for the dead, unlike shipwrecks, although, in Titanic's sake, considering that many victims did rest here, respect is still important.

Now I know what you meant by "intended" resting place, Jeff, as the wreck site was not originally designated as a resting place for the dead. I was merely pointing out that in Titanic's case, the "unintended" was mute, because the wreck site did serve as a final resting place. One could argue that nature intended this as their final graveyard because there would be no way to retrieve the remains. Respecting nature's processes is part of our humanity because we are a part of nature.

The part regarding the disinternment made "with respect" suggests that even the minimally remaining amount of human material is precisely that. Even though much is not left, we recognize that this was a place where humans once lay and should be treated with respect.

The same could be said regarding Titanic, the Andrea Doria, the Lusitania, the Great Eastern, The Empress of Ireland and many other wreck locations.

Yes, I have seen the harsh realities as well, and I have found myself appalled by such actions.

The question I have is this: If it makes no difference in the end, why have cemeteries at all? Why continue to reserve spaces for cemeteries? Why not just load up the carcasses on to ships and dump them out into the sea where they will never be disturbed? (These are rhetorical)

Cemeteries should be left alone. Wreck sites? . . . As long as they are handled with the utmost respect, retrieval is not unacceptable. I am just saying that the 3C boy's boots should be treated as his remains--not just simply boots.​
 
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Yes, I realize that some of the points I made in the previous three posts have, perhaps, been made elsewhere, in other forms, by others. I just felt like elaborating my own agreements on certain issues.
 
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Jeff Kelley

Guest
I have already stated my own position on these issues, so I am not sure I can add anything else. I think we simply have a difference of opinion, and I certainly recognize the validity of your points. This is one area where there are definitely two sides to the issue that will never be reconciled due to a difference in perspective. Still, I think that the world is full of spaces that were the scenes of great tragedy or carnage and today have other uses - that's the reality of it.

I don't want to open a can of worms for another protracted debate, but your reasoning would seem to suggest that since the Titanic's victim's remains can't be recovered because they have decomposed or disappeared completely, then the site can't ever be "processed" as would a car or plane crash site (remove the remains to be properly buried and then clear the debris from the site). This might well be a reasonable approach, but I also have doubts that it is practical to declare every crash/wreck/devestation site sacred if the bodies can't be removed before they disintegrate. (How about the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?)

My guess is that Titanic victims ended up scattered over many, many miles of the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Should we treat the entire Atlantic Ocean the way we do the wreck site? (Just a rhetorical question).

My basic point is that there are already plenty of precedents for salvage of ship wrecks - Titanic would hardly be the first. People died on the Andrea Doria, for example, but it is considered a recreational dive site for skilled divers - and they do retrieve artifacts as well.

There are many contradictions in considering these issues, and I would suggest that there will never be an adequate reconciliation between them. For example - many airplane crash sites were returned to ordinary use, but the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA (Sept. 11, 2001) will be made into a sacred memorial.

As for the Titanic shoes - I have no idea how shoes were packaged or shipped in 1912, but I did not assume they were necessarily shipped with laces tied together. In any case, I would not have expected that there would still be laces down there to examine - I understand that the leather often survived but I thought that cloth and similar materials (including cotton or linen laces) would have rotted away. If a pair of shoes exists near the Titanic with untied laces intact then I guess I would have to ask where the rest of the victim's clothing and accessories are. In any case, I am not an expert on the shoe issue. I was moved by the pictures of the pairs of shoes, but I recalled an earlier discussion where it was suggested that it was not certain that these shoes represented a final resting place after all.