When is salvaging from inside the wreck justified

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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When the Mount Temple went down in 1916, she was carrying a large cargo of dinosaur fossils, and there have been some suggestions of rescuing them.

This got me thinking: if there was something priceless and unique (NOT Byzanium!) in the Titanic, would it be justified for salvage teams to enter the hull and retrieve them, either with ROVs or cutting tools?

Cheers

Paul
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http://www.paullee.com
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I'd have a hard time dealing with that one. I don't think I'd attempt it for profit...and not because of ethical issues...but because frankly, I don't think it would be very safe. The Titanic isn't deteriorating as fast as the Anfrea Doria is, but how do you know that something you want to cut away isn't holding a particular section together? No matter how rich the prize, it's a bit tough to enjoy it if your dead.

What I'd have to ask would be if any recovery would preserve some important piece of evidence...if removing it would destroy the context of that evidence, or if any such would preserve some piece of history that would otherwise be lost. I'd love to see the Marconi equipment recovered and restored, but would the risks outweigh the potential benefit? A lot of those structures on the Boat deck aren't in great shape. The next attempt to touch down there may well be the last for somebody.
 

Wesley Burton

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Apr 22, 2004
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I think that as long as it isnt the personal property of the passengers or crew, I might be okay with it. Like if it was the log or something like that. I would be against cutting the ship's hull. It was carrying the Rubiyacht (sp?). Which is as close to priceless as you can get when it comes to Titanic.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Hi Paul,

I don't think it's justified at all, as I have problems with this issue. In the summer of 2000, when RMSTI proposed to cut open the bow and go inside to search, and possibly retrieve artifacts (the Rubiayat and William Carter's car were mentioned), it went beyond what I consider ethnical.

Michael is absolutely right about the safety issue. It wouldn't be safe for a manned submersible to venture in there, as I imagine there would be many hazards to deal with. Futhermore, if the hull is cut open, it will just hasten the deterioration of the wreck.

As Michael said, what if something were to happen while the crew were down at the site? I don't believe that the hull would be able to withstand being ripped open, in my opinion.

Wesley, if the Rubiayat and the log book, weren't put in something to protect them, then it's most likely that they are gone. The only thing left from the Rubiayat if anything, would be the jewels.

Best regards,

Jason
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Dec 2, 2000
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It would be impossible for a manned submersible to go in there, though it can be done with ROV's. The technical problem here is that ROV's small enough to get around inside the ship don't have the muscle to carry the sort of heavy tools needed to do much in the way of recovery in the wreck. Small objects perhaps, but nothing really big.

The catch here is that an ROV needs a manned submersible to operate from and those things have to touch down somwehere. As shaky as the uper works of the ship are becoming, touching down there is increasingly a bad idea, almost if not already to the point of being suicidal. They could put down on the bottom, but how much control cable can these things carry to run the ROV any useful distance inside the ship?

I suppose one day, some smart laddie or lassie is going to invent a hard suit which can operate that deep so that divers could "swim" into the ship, but by the time that happens, I doubt the condition of the hull will be any better then it is now. You sure as hell couldn't get me to try a stunt like that!
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Hi Michael,

"It would be impossible for a manned submersible to go in there, though it can be done with ROV's."

You're right, I meant to say ROV's. Thanks for pointing that out.

Best regards,

Jason
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Magnus Lundin

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Jul 6, 2004
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In my opinion, no salvaging from inside the wreck can be justified, regardless what the supposed justification might be.
 
Jul 11, 2001
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I don't believe in Ghosts. Bring it all up!


The Titanic is best compared to the Smithsonian Museum being on fire. Would people say: "Let it burn" ?? Of course not. Society would kick the doors down to pull out the contents before the Museum burned to the ground. Letting the Titanic crumble into Oblivion is just as much a crime. Preventing the rescue of artifacts is not honoring the passengers, it is letting them slip away with the sands of time.

All of you Anti-Salvage people can meet me at your Metropolitan Museums so we can start burning books and paintings, OK?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Letting the Titanic crumble into Oblivion is just as much a crime.<<

And what do you propose to do about it that's within the realm of technical possibility? This isn't a burning structure where you can call out the fire brigade to deal with the problem, this is a broken wreck which lies under 12,500 feet of water where pressures are three tons per square inch. Get into trouble down there and for all the lavish support you may have, you might as well be stranded on the Moon.

>>All of you Anti-Salvage people can meet me at your Metropolitan Museums so we can start burning books and paintings, OK? <<

Mmmmmmmmm...rather then just make inflammatory swipes like that, you might do well to give some due consideration to the concerns raised by those who are critical of and even opposed to salvage. I may not personally agree with some of their sentiments, but I don't always agree with those who support salvage either. However, both sides raise concerns that deserve a fair hearing and discussion, not blanket dismissal.
 
May 12, 2005
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The salvage issue is one that most of us "old" board members have had our say about. I don't know what the demographic is here now but I'm sure we have many active members on both sides of the question.

I was against salvaging when I first heard that it was being proposed and I'm still not for it. I know others feel differently; many friends are avidly pro-salvage. Others, like me, find it deplorable. People can go into the archives to see past debates on this subject, one of the eternally controversial ones - right up there with the Californian topic.

While those items already brought up need to be properly cared for by reputable museums, further desecration of the site should be outlawed. It's got to be protected. Regarding the latest attempts at breeching the hull to extract personal effects from the interior, that's so unholy a violation I can't even believe sane men are contemplating it.

And as for the carnival-like exhibits of these sad items, they're disrespectful and morbid. What's more, the majority of visitors to these touring shows don't care a bit about the true history and human toll of the disaster; it's just a way to commune with the cinematic story of Jack and Rose. It was enough to make me want to wretch to see stupid tourists, in T-shirts and flip-flops, grinning and pointing to utensils most likely last held by a Titanic victim. The personal items, accompanied by display captions with misspelled names of victims and survivors or with simplistic stories to wow the average Joe, don't belong in this cheap kind of venue. It's revolting.

As to the much vaunted archaeological significance of the "artifacts," there's no real historical insight to gain from a broken piece of china or a toothbrush.
 

Eric Paddon

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Jun 4, 2002
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"And as for the carnival-like exhibits of these sad items, they're disrespectful and morbid. What's more, the majority of visitors to these touring shows don't care a bit about the true history and human toll of the disaster."

If I could boil my response to one word it would be BULL!

The artifact exhibitions for me are and always will be the most moving displays of anything related to the Titanic I have ever seen. I have attended these exhibitions three times and not once did I ever see any of that behavior you ascribe to those who visit them. What I saw were people fascinated by seeing history in front of them in the same way that any person who visits a museum is fascinated to see something connected with history before their own eyes.

If we want to talk about a real case of a disrespectful Titanic exhibition though, I need only point to that farce in Orlando with their unfunny costumed tour guides spouting their disinformation about stolen stern plaques and artifacts being sold on e-bay. *That* is my definition of revolting and they're the ones who aren't displaying salvaged artifacts.
 

Magnus Lundin

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I can't understand the phrase "rescue of artifacts"? Pieces of art? Most of the artifacts on the wreck site are everyday items. I can't abide those pictures of artifacts being conserved, "restored" and private letters read. During the 1994 expedition, the wreck site was compared to a salad. 68 % of the people aboard the Titanic perished, let their personal belongings, and their grave, be. Enough damage has been done to the Titanic during those expeditions.
 

Eric Paddon

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The artifacts are significant because of their association with a great moment in history. It is not the fact that they are "everyday items" it is the fact that they are "everyday items" that were part of a famous event in history which requires their preservation for the same reason that similar artifacts have been preserved for generations from both shipwrecks and other famous historical sites. There is absolutely no reason for Titanic to be treated any differently.

And incidentally, if you can't "abide" seeing precious historical legacies preserved for future generations so they aren't left with just murky underwater video, then no one is forcing you to go to such an exhibition. But kindly leave the rest of us who are moved by such exhibits and who understand the role they serve alone and stop trying to foist your dubious sanctimonious claptrap about their supposed "sacredness" on the rest of us and deny us of our right to appreciate what has been done.

As for what's caused damage to the Titanic, it isn't the salvage expeditions that have damaged the ship (unless you like to believe Robert Ballard's lies about crows nest telephones and bells), it's the ravages of time and nature taking its course. We've been given a chance to save precious legacies of the ship for future generations to enjoy before nature can destroy them, and God bless those who've done so!
 
Jan 28, 2003
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This is the sort of topic where nobody is going to convince anybody else because views tend to both polarise strongly and get expressed forcibly. And degenerate into trading insults - which we don't need please.
 

Magnus Lundin

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quote:

foist your dubious sanctimonious claptrap
That was a very nasty personal attack. The main reason why the expeditions went there seems to be based more on making money (in MY opinion if you're familiar with that expression) on the tragedy than anything else. In my opinion (see, there's that expression again) Titanic and the debris field are grave sites. Oh, and your statement on Ballard's "lie" is interesting. Would you care to explain how the crow's nest was still in place during the early stages of the '87 expedition (as shown in a photograph in the Swedish magazine Illustrerad Vetenskap from 1987)but gone later when Nautile retrieved the lantern from the forward mast? Oh, and please explain the damages clearly made by subs found during Ballard's latest expedition? Monica is right, but I felt a rebuttal was necessary. I don't try and force my opinion on anyone, oh, did you read the heading of this topic? When is salvaging from inside the wreck justified? I gave my view, but it seems that all you want to do is flame people who doesn't think the way you do.​
 
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The Smithsonian is filled with common everyday items. Proper retrieval, restoration and dignified display can be achieved by actual experts. Professionals certainly would never step knowingly in harms way. I do not advocate anybody getting hurt recovering a teacup or even a civil war cannon ball.

Michael you are absolutely right. The Titanics decay cannot be stopped. Thus my overly exaggerated example of the futility of watching so much history be buried under the collapsing hull.

If the Ballardites want protection of the Ship, then they had better stop fooling around with legal documents and get together with men like James Cameron and start filming more interior exploration. Because while everybody sits typing away the ship just keeps disappearing.

Science has brought us to a point where we can finally start to explorer this ship. Time is ticking.

And yes, I agree that there are plenty of "tacky" or "Wacky" things being done in the name of the ship. The Weddings at the wreck are not just silly, but dangerous. Common sense says that. Keeping ignorant tourists away from exhibits will never happen. Jack and Rose will live on forever. (Rolls eyes) If society wants to protect the good names of the Titanic passengers then we could start right at Ebay and the other various web sites and gift stores that hawk bizzarre items. Don't forget the Giant inflatable childrens' slide that looks like the sinking ship taking the plunge.

A final thought: Yes, this Pro vs. Anti debate will never convince either side to switch. But we all should be open minded to the reasons why people feel this way. So please, don't just say there in NO reason to do so. There obviously is. Whether it is practical or not, that is a completely different issue. We can be passionate about both sides of this without getting personal. I have friends who are Anti-Salvage. I still love them as the best we can do is agree to disagree.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>and stop trying to foist your dubious sanctimonious claptrap about their supposed "sacredness" on the rest of us and deny us of our right to appreciate what has been done.<<

Well Eric, if you don't like it, you don't have to read it. What is "claptrap" in the eyes of one is a valid philisophical/moral point to another in this particular debate and which in turn is a belly laugh to those who think philosophical/moral points are just so much bunk no matter what they are. Since it is in no wise a violation of the rules, Magnus is within his rights to express it.

A quick glance tells me that the usual rheotoric is starting to fly about in this debate, and some of it quite inflammatory. Let's step away from that and stick to the points in controversy rather then resorting to cheap shots and lables such as "Ballardites", "Anti-Salvage people" and the like. I think there is a middle ground here, but nobody is going to find it by the usual tricks of rheotoric, baiting, and insult trading that's tended to come along with the deal.

Put an end to it or I will.
 

Eric Paddon

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Jun 4, 2002
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"The main reason why the expeditions went there seems to be based more on making money (in MY opinion if you're familiar with that expression)"

Except that there is no evidence to justify such a position considering that no artifacts were ever put up on the auction block, contrary to what was argued by those as an excuse to attack the motives of those who engaged in salvage and who refused to acknowledge any degree of good intentions in their efforts. Since Robert Ballard is the only person who can ever be said to have "made money" off the Titanic, the dubiousness of this argument seems more evident to me.

"Oh, and your statement on Ballard's "lie" is interesting. Would you care to explain how the crow's nest was still in place during the early stages of the '87 expedition (as shown in a photograph in the Swedish magazine Illustrerad Vetenskap from 1987)but gone later when Nautile retrieved the lantern from the forward mast?"

Quite simple. The crows nest collapsed because of age, just like the gym roof has collapsed because of natural age and deterioration in the years since 1986. Ballard claimed the crows nest was destroyed "undoubtedly in the act of getting at the telephone". This was a lie, because there was no telephone recovered from the crows nest and his own 1985 and 1986 pictures show there was no telephone to recover from the crows nest. Then the spin went out that it collapsed from recovering the bell, but again his own pictures show no bell in the crows nest in 1985 and RMSTI's pictures show both bell and telephone recovered from the debris field. As for the argument it collapsed because of retrieving the masthead light, since that is far up the mast and nowhere near the crows nest itself, the dubiousness of that argument speaks for itself. The bottom line is that Ballard's comment about the telephonen was a lie and that has been proved by the factual record of evidence (you are welcome to a copy of the phone lying in the debris field, which can't be posted here due to copyright restrictions).

"Oh, and please explain the damages clearly made by subs found during Ballard's latest expedition?"

If you're going to raise that issue, it sounds like you should have a bigger complaint with the Cameron expeditions, so why are you singling out RMSTI?

"I don't try and force my opinion on anyone"

I think anyone who demonizes the fine work of museum exhibitions like those of the Titanic artifacts and who try to push un-Constitutional legislation to waste the taxpayers money on the policing of shipwrecks in international waters are trying to force their opinions on the rest of us, and that is a position I will gladly oppose as strongly as I can. Especially since the advocates of the gravesite argument never once resorted to this dubious position for a single shipwreck before the Titanic.

"it seems that all you want to do is flame people who doesn't think the way you do."

Your comments I believe flamed unjustly a whole class of fine people who have done a fine job in preserving the legacy of a great ship and when you slur them, you are by extension IMO slurring me and everyone else who came away touched by those exhibitions and felt grateful for what they achieved and accomplished.
 

Magnus Lundin

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Jul 6, 2004
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This will be my (perhaps) final post regarding my position (as I already have expressed it) but I feel that I must make some clarifications. First of all, Eric. We're both members of democratic societies (I'm Swedish and you're clearly American) and as such, we should be able to use arguments (like you did in your #320 post above), not flaming, to discuss the matter. I've already made it clear that I'm not trying to convince anyone, I merely expressed my opinion. I respect your view, although I don't agree with it. I understand that there are thousands of people out there who want to view those artifacts and I respect that, but I'm not one of those people. To me, the tragic events of the 14th and 15th of April 1912 is more than watching artifacts.

Ok, regarding your first counter argument, making money, RMSTI has recovered coal (which I have no objection to) from the ocean floor for the sole purpose of financing other expeditions. It has also been reported in the media that RMSTI tried to obtain legal right to sell artifacts, but the court denied the company that right. The case went to the appeals court which ruled that RMSTI does not have a right to the artifacts.

About the crows nest. I never said that the incident was connected with the retrieval of the masthead lantern, I merely pointed out that the crows nest was missing in what seems to be a later stage of the '87 expedition. Naturally, I can't say that RMSTI destroyed or damaged the crows nest (I don't think that any damage during any expedition was intentional), and nothing conclusively can be said in this matter.

Regarding current damage to Titanic and that I singled RMSTI out, did I write that "RMSTI damaged the Titanic during their expeditions"? No! There has been all sorts of expeditions to Titanic, tourism and artifact retrieval not performed by RMSTI. My intention was not to point the finger at RMSTI. I'm sorry if my post made that impression and I apologize if you took offense. Cameron's expeditions to Titanic has, in my opinion, been performed very admirably. While I don't like his movie, Cameron clearly understands how deep sea exploration should be done.

As I said, I consider the wrecksite to be a grave, like I do with all wrecks. I would like to relate my view to a present day event. In 1994, the ferry Estonia sank on its voyage between Tallinn, Estonia and Stockholm, Sweden with the loss of 852 people, mostly Swedes (501 out of 550 on board) and Estonians (280 out of 344 on board). Only 137 persons in total was saved. The decision was taken by the Swedish, Estonian and Finnish governments that the wreck is to be considered a grave site and that the site would be policed to prevent unauthorized diving. I can't imagine that some 90 years from now that someone would dive to this wreck for artifact retrieval and showcase them in northern Europe just because 90 years have passed. It's exactly the same way I feel about the Titanic. It's a grave site.
I respect your view that the retrieval of artifacts from the Titanic is done in order to protect them, although I don't agree on the motive. I won't discuss your political and economical view on the matter, but I wouldn't go so far as saying that the new treaty is unconstitutional.

And about me slurring you, no. As I've said, you're entitled to your view and I am entitled to mine.
I do hope that the hostile tone between us could be reduced somewhat, Eric.
 
May 12, 2005
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All this just shows what a hot potato this subject is.

There is much emotion on both sides and each of us has a right to those feelings. My own particular reasons for being opposed to salvage have nothing whatever to do with supporting Ballard, of whom I have made it clear I am no fan, or with any exclusive regard for Titanic's dead as I am just as opposed to grave-robbing at any other wreck site. The Lusitania and Empress of Ireland, etc., also need to be protected; I have the same indignation at the exploitation and plundering they have suffered.

My opinion of the attitude of the general public toward these travelling artifact exhibitions is based on personal experience, both as a paying attendee and as a reporter. I witnessed chewing-gum chomping kids whiz through the exhibit to get to the food stalls at the other end, I heard people discussing "The Movie" and even speculating about whether the items were real or from a film set. The layout of the items was also accompanied by incorrect names and garbled facts on identification cards. The ultimate "pay off" for the exhibitors, apart from overpriced tickets, was the gift shop, swarming with customers buying every conceivable product from coffee mugs to dolls of Captain Smith. I stand by what I said about these exhibits being raree shows.

My anti-salvage stance was initially arrived at from a simple gut feeling that this was an exploitative approach to preserving the history of the ship. It hasn't altered all these years. It has only been compounded by the feelings expressed to me by descendants of Titanic people with whom I have befriended in my research.

True, not all survivors or their relatives are against salvage. But the descendant that I grew to know and love was very opposed to it. Lucy Duff Gordon's late grandson, Tony Halsbury, thought it was criminal and was ready to take action should his family be exploited. I quote the following from a letter from him in 1998:

"..I should say that it is wrong for these things from the grave to be carted about and stuck under glass for people to look at. You may say that I am opposed to it and if any possessions of my dear grandmother are retrieved and displayed, I will make sure they are removed..." (Anthony, 3rd Earl of Halsbury, F.R.S., letter to the author, 18 June 1998)