To salvage or not to salvage the moral dilemma

M

monica e. hall

Member
Well, I have to go with Paul on this one. Apart from the Marconi equipment, there is nothing down there that adds to our historical understanding of Edwardian life - evidence for that has been well documented, can be seen in still and moving images, is only just out of living memory, and their artifacts are still plentifully with us.

Interest is a different matter which, I suggest, is why researchers continue to conduct studies.

The Titanic piques interest for many reasons. If she had sunk on her 12th voyage, instead of her maiden voyage, then interest would probably have been less, as it would had it been packed with comparative nobodies (Empress of Ireland). And, in fact, interest faded fairly soon after the event until ANTR was published, and the film of it made in the 1950s. The discovery of the wreck and Cameron's obsession with it brought the story to a new and younger audience. But these were all really accounts of human lives and tragedy which is always of interest to us, naturally, but we are fairly selective about which we want to know more about.

And there is the most gripping aspect of the event which is, of course, that it seems almost totally unnecessary and avoidable, compared to which the Lusitania, the Wilhelm Gustlov, the Dona Paz etc. seem almost inevitable.

If you doubt this, try comparing the following propositions:

If only it hadn't been thundering along at 22 knots in an icefield...
and
If only we hadn't been at war...

So far as salvage goes, we are far from rational about it. Most shipwrecks are grave sites, though most no longer have any skeletons on them as they don't last long in the sea. Nobody is in the least bit bothered about rootling about in, and salvaging, stuff from Roman, Greek, medieval, or indeed, any wreck which is beyond living memory or photographic record. Which makes those sites of genuine historical interest, of course, because they can tell us about life which we have never experienced and have a patchy record of.

I understand the interest of the Titanic as well as anyone here, but I don't think we need to romanticise it as genuinely historical or fulminate about plundering a 'sacred' grave site. It's more sociological interest than anything else - except the Marconi Room. And there's nothing wrong with that because it has led to many wonderfully varied insights - such as the condition of immigrants from many nations, the status of women, hygiene problems posed by Edwardian clothing, communications theory, tensile strength of Edwardian steel etc.

These interests are all historical - in terms of their being in the past - but they aren't historical in terms of being exclusive sources of information.

Personally, if I'd died when the Titanic sank, and my shoes were recovered in the 21st century, I think I'd be quite pleased.
 
Steven Hall

Steven Hall

Member
"I understand the interest of the Titanic as well as anyone here, but I don't think we need to romanticise it as genuinely historical or fulminate about plundering a 'sacred' grave site."

That's about it Mon. What you'd mostly find on Titanic you'd find in grandads' old shed at the back of the garden.

"Personally, if I'd died when the Titanic sank, and my shoes were recovered in the 21st century, I think I'd be quite pleased."

You're so right. I feel the same.
 
Bill Willard

Bill Willard

Member
Mark wrote "Those who really know and understand what is going on with that wreck would want it to remain right where it is, because they know that that is the only way the wreck will live on in the physical world without any further harm to come to it."

Mark, I'll respectfully disagree with this. The ship is in extreme decay where it is, rotting daily as the ocean and bacteria take their toll. From my weeks at the wrecksite in 1998, I have some 40 hours of footage both from the bow exterior and from the interior. I watch eagerly any new footage shown from recent expeditions to compare, and I see deterioration, just in the last years. The upper decks will continue to sag until the supports weaken and eventually fail and collapse. The upper decks will lay upon middle decks, whose already-weakened supports will only be able to last for a limited time before they too, fail, and EVERYTHING that we could have gained, will be lost forever.

I supported George Tulloch's belief that this incredible snapshot of time should be preserved for generations to come. I support it now. In 50 years, there will be historians and reseachers who decry all those who hindered the chance to save EVERYTHING for those who want to learn about the people on board, and for the opportunity to learn all that can be learned.

Every time a personal piece is recovered, there is NEW learning that takes place. From one suitcase, we learned about Pearl Shuttle and her love for Howard Irwin. From another, we learned about Adolph Saalfeld. What if, in Charlotte Cardeza's cabin, her personal diary is recovered from among her 27 steamer trunks? What if Arthur Peuchen's tin is found containing his $300,000 in stocks and bonds? The tin he chose to leave because the oranges on his bureau "seemed more valuable at the time"? Yet there are those that want to STOP the opportunity to glean every iota of information from the snapshot of time.

Once the opportunity is lost, it is lost forever, and posterity pays the price. We WON'T have a second chance.

Just my two cents.
 
Steven Hall

Steven Hall

Member
Mark, if they see a suitcase on the bottom, I think they should grab it (for all the reasons you explained above). Every sub going down there should have a basket to collect items of interest.
The opportunity is already slipping through out fingers as we speak.
But collecting items like you spoke of don't make good television.
 
Paul Rogers

Paul Rogers

Member
"No, that's fine. You have a thought, you express it . . ."

Thank you so much!

"When I said that the Titanic wreck held historical significance, I wasn't referring to its era in general, but to Titanic's story. We continue to gain insight into the people who were on her and involved with her, not to mention fill in further gaps in the story behind the ship and, especially, the sinking."

Which is all fair enough, Mark, but I would still argue that the above is not a definition of "historical significance". The Titanic wreck adds (almost) nothing to our historical knowledge of that era. Unless, of course, salvage attempts finally manage to discover the on-board cost of Woodbines.

"After all, if the Titanic wreck held no historical value whatsoever, why do researchers continue to visit the wreck and conduct ongoing studies to collect information?"

Mon said it all: because of interest (or, possibly, obsession).
 
M

Mark Robert Hopkins

Member
Hello, Bill. I hope all is well with you!


quote:

Mark, I'll respectfully disagree with this. The ship is in extreme decay where it is, rotting daily as the ocean and bacteria take their toll.

What I meant by the Titanic "living on in the physical world without any further harm coming to it," was that the wreck would last longer right where it is rather than in an attempt to raise it, which would spell immediate doom for the ship because of its feeble state.

Earlier, George mentioned something about the morality of raising the ship itself, and I was commenting on the fact that such an endeavor, if not impossible, would be foolish and fruitless due to the building deterioration going on there. Recovering the ship itself would bring moral outrage from those who know that it would be safer to leave it on the bottom rather than trying vainly to raise it. This was my basic point.

Don't get me wrong. I am not going to allow myself to retreat into some fanciful vision of the "mighty" Titanic and how important it is in comparison to other things; I am never one to romanticize those discoveries of the physical world, and that includes Titanic. There was nothing romantic about it; it was one of many ships deemed luxurious at the time and captured ongoing interest. Her sinking was anything but exciting, although it has intrigued many and continues to do so. The drama that has unfolded 12-thousand feet down has grabbed our hearts and minds and has reminded us as to the horror and terrible loss that incurred that night--the reality that such a tragedy is, in fact, ugly and should be remembered that way.

I agree with you, Bill. The ship is fading away. That is why we should learn as much as we can from it now before it is gone . . . and why raising it would be a very immoral act, because it would render further unnecessary destruction to the ship.​
 
M

Mark Robert Hopkins

Member
Hi, Steve!

quote:

Mark, if they see a suitcase on the bottom, I think they should grab it (for all the reasons you explained above). Every sub going down there should have a basket to collect items of interest.


I was referring to the ship itself. This should not be recovered because doing so would cause further destruction.

As for the items, I can see where recovering them would allow us to learn more about the people who were on Titanic, not to mention expand on our museum collections or, such as in the case of Brown's pocket watch, return some items to their family lines.

Earlier, I analogously compared the wreck site to a crime scene where everything has a story of its own and says something about the "crime" committed (i.e. the sinking). True, not everything would necessarily render new insight on that, but moving or removing certain objects just might compromise certain "evidence" that could help us further piece together that "crime" and what had actually happened. Still, as said, we learn through recovery and retrieval as well. That's the whole conundrum behind salvage.

Yes, Steve. I see what you're saying about grabbing what we can before it is gone, because some things which are still intact can be treated to overcome further deterioration. This is important as well.


quote:

The opportunity is already slipping through out fingers as we speak.

No disagreement from me. Please see my last post.


quote:

But collecting items like you spoke of don't make good television.

?? I'm not sure about your reference. Sorry, I am at a loss here.​
 
M

Mark Robert Hopkins

Member
Hi, Mon. I hope everything goes well with you!

Very well-stated! There is a difference between historical significance and personal interest. When I had initially used the term "historical significance [or] "value" to represent the Titanic wreck, I was likely employing the inappropriate words. I was referring to the idea that raising the ship itself would accelerate the already fading bit of history we have in the wreck site. That's not to say that recovering items, such as shoes or suitcases, doesn't have its benefits.

As for shoes, these do represent a grave, as they are all that is left of what was one a human body. The body is gone, so retrieving the boots should be inconsequential and even academic. I can see where this serves a worthwhile even practical purpose.

Mon, in many of your previous posts, you alluded to a lack of religious adherence (in an attempt to try to be as careful as possible. If I am wrong, my apologies. I am going on overall impression). I personally cannot do that 100%, as I am a deist. I will not bring religion into this, but only to say that my perspective does have a spiritual component that cannot be rendered insignificant or eliminated altogether to the consideration of scientific rationality, nor would I wish it that way. I can appreciate both respecting a grave site and retrieving artifacts for study and preservation. To me this is at the heart of the dilemma of salvaging because the two stances don't always, or can't always, work together, for obvious reasons.

As for salvaging, if the practice is to be conducted, care in selection and handling are prudent, as respect should always be maintained in situations such as this, especially with human remains.


quote:

Personally, if I'd died when the Titanic sank, and my shoes were recovered in the 21st century, I think I'd be quite pleased.

I've often wondered if any DNA could be extracted from these shoes or boots to assist in identifying their owners. I know it has been a long time and that such objects have been buried in deep ocean for nearly a century, but what are the chances of this?​
 
M

Mark Robert Hopkins

Member
Hey, Paul . . .


quote:

"No, that's fine. You have a thought, you express it . . ."

Thank you so much!

What I meant was that you needn't be concerned that I'd become defensive, as before. I was just clarifying that I welcome comments.


quote:

I would still argue that the above is not a definition of "historical significance". The Titanic wreck adds (almost) nothing to our historical knowledge of that era.

And so that has been pointed out to me. Thanks. Mine were inappropriate words to use for what I meant, and that's what generated the confusion. My apologies.


quote:

Unless, of course, salvage attempts finally manage to discover the on-board cost of Woodbines.

My guess is that would be extremely difficult and not very likely.​
 
B

Bob Godfrey

Member
What are the chances of finding DNA in a pair of boots that have been submerged for 100 years? Other than the cow's, you mean? Considerably less than the chance of finding it in a 100-year old coffin on land, and even that proves to be impossible in many cases.
 
M

Mark Robert Hopkins

Member
I wasn't sure, Bob. Technological advancements have been made that can pretty much collect DNA samples from areas that we weren't able to only a decade or two ago. I just wondered.
 
B

Bob Godfrey

Member
Paul and Mark, there's no longer any mystery about the onboard price of Woodbines. After years of painstaking research I have established the price not only of Woodbines but of Swan Vestas as well. 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, which is available from most remaindering outlets. If possible get the illustrated edition, which includes a rare photo of Captain Smith's Zippo.
 
M

Mark Robert Hopkins

Member
Bob,

I certainly would. Will I be able to find it at most retail chains here in America(Barnes and Noble, Borders)? I will look for it. Thanks.

Ah, the Zippo! That would be quaint to see!
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>Yes, these people count to few, but they are constantly growing in number. <<

Uhhhhhh...are they? When was the last time anything about the Titanic made front page news? Think back to the most recent expeditions. Outside of our circle of friends, how many people knew about it or really even cared?

Sure, there was some hate and discontent over some out of context remarks cribbed from Dr. Ballard, but it wasn't the world's greatest issue anywhere else, and it went away quickly enough even among this bunch. Hell, if nobody had seen some of the most recent documentaries on the History or Discovery Channels, hardly anybody would have known anything was even going on, and none of these was a hot topic for discussion outside the Titanic community.

James Cameron certainly piqued the interest of a lot of people but that was ten years ago and most have gone on to other things. The mistake here appears to be in the assumption that the public at large shares our interest.

I kind of wish they did. The reality is that they don't.
 
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