When is salvaging from inside the wreck justified

Apr 11, 2001
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Before the Full House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, Oct. 29,1985- regarding H.R.3272, the "Titanic Maritime Memorial Act of 1985." Dr. Ballard appeared on Panel 1
In response to Question 4 from the Committee, Dr. Ballard's statement reads:
"Since many beautiful artifacts lie outside the ship itself, scattered over the rolling alpine-like countryside around it and are vulnerable to crude and damaging salvage attempts, I am proposing to both our Government and the Government of France that any future revisits to the TITANIC which would involve the deep diving submersibles of our two countries, or any country, for that matter, dedicate a portion of their diving time to carefully recording and recovering those delicate items lying outside the hull of the ship itself. The artifacts recovered should be used to create a museum for the countries which join the U.S. and France in setting TITANIC aside as an international memorial. I further propose that no attempt be made to harm the ship itself or retrieve items from its interior compartments. The interior compartments, we hope, will be documented in detail using remotely controlled vehicles which can be operated from nearby manned submersibles. This footage will provide the public with an opportunity to tour Titanic's interior like a guided tour through an untouched pyramid."
 
May 12, 2005
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Although probably a minor matter to everyone but the family of Lucy Duff Gordon (and me), I want to make sure that her grandson Tony Halsbury's words are neither misunderstood nor taken out of context any further. So, to this end, let me remind Eric Paddon that nowhere in the excerpt of Tony's letter which I shared (nor anywhere in the full document), is it stated that he would seek legal action against salvagers. That is a conclusion to which Eric unwisely and unfairly jumped.

He also makes a leap of judgment that is similarly unwarranted when he implies that the action Tony Halsbury might have taken to prevent the exhibition of his grandmother's possessions would be lacking in dignity or conciliation. I assure him that my friend's dignity and diplomacy (not to mention goodness of heart) were at all times present in his every public action and deed. I should add, however, that had Tony wished to pursue litigation, being a leading lawmaker in England, he would have at least been heard "loud and clear."

This statement is issued with the permission of his family, members of which wished a clarification to be made. I would also like to publicly apologize to them for opening up their loved one's words to the misconstruction they have suffered. My only aim in posting his comments was to show his great emotion on the subject, which would impress people more than anything I could say.
 

Philip Hind

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Sep 1, 1996
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I have moved/removed some off topic, irrelevant messages. Back to the discussion which, if memory serves was "When is salvaging from inside the wreck justified?"

I'm ambivalent about salvage but reading the threads about the deterioration of recovered artefacts such as the 'big piece' and the megaphone, it seems to me a shame that having gathered great pictures of the items we then bring them to the surface only for them to waste away.
 

Bill Willard

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Mar 24, 2001
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Phil, remember this; things are going to waste away whether we bring them to the surface or not. Even the best of conservatory efforts sometimes do not succeed because of the amount of decomposition and other factors.

If the artifacts are being neglected, then I agree with you. It should be labeled as criminal, in my opinion.

In a recent suit against the management of RMSTI, the plaintiffs requested that a neutral expert be allowed to examine the artifacts to assess the condition of the pieces to refute/confirm that the artifacts need serious attention. The ruling magistrate denied the request.
 

Eric Paddon

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Jun 4, 2002
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"So, to this end, let me remind Eric Paddon that nowhere in the excerpt of Tony's letter which I shared (nor anywhere in the full document), is it stated that he would seek legal action against salvagers. That is a conclusion to which Eric unwisely and unfairly jumped."

The words that were used which prompted that conclusion were "criminal" and that the recourse would be to "take action" and to "make sure they are removed." With that type of inflammatory rhetoric, I think there can be little doubt that a reasonable person would conclude that this means taking legal action with the intent to publicly make an example of RMSTI as a bunch of heatless, cruel evil people.

I stand by my sentiments that such litigation would be frivolous, given how it utterly lacks any semblance of a legit legal basis (bottom line: If you accept payment from an insurance company for lost property, you don't have the right to say it's "your property" any longer unless you plan to give some compensation to the people who recover it), and that any concerns over public display of such items in the unlikely event that something that specific could have been found, could have been met with a lot more conciliation and dignity than was evident in the kind of words that were reprinted here in order to make a nasty point about RMSTI and the principle of salvage and artifact display.

"My only aim in posting his comments was to show his great emotion on the subject, which would impress people more than anything I could say."

Well I don't think it's a crime or being "insenstive" if there are some of us who having seen them come away unimpressed. That is my opinion on the subject, and I am sticking to it.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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If you're asking my opinion, my answer to the question would be this:

Salvage of the wreck was justified as soon as Titanic slipped from the control of man to the control of Nature. Following age-old tradition of the sea, the first to satisfy salvor-in-possession rights deserved a claim to the wreck. Say what you will about RMST, but it is exceptional for a salvor-in-possession to willingly agree to keep and preserve all artefacts in a comprehensive collection and not destroy a wreck in order to recover items that are intended to be sold for profit. Compare the Titanic wreck to every other shipwreck lying in international waters and you might find -- as I do -- that it has been handled with extraordinary care and respect. I am excepting, of course, those wrecks designated as war memorials by various governments...that is an entirely different case altogether.

An artefact from Titanic carries with it a high potential of profit. However, with few exceptions, artefacts recovered from the Titanic wreck do not make it into the marketplace. Profit is instead realised through travelling exhibitions, which in turn are used to fund additional explorations of the wreck. There has been mismanagement of those profits, to be sure, but overall, the wreck appears to have been treated with respect for what she once was and the information she now holds.

Every team that has visited the wreck has damaged it (an exception may be the most recent expedition, but the results from that haven't yet been completely analysed). It's a fact of life when operating at such depth and against such forces of Nature. For all his protestations, Ballard was the first to damage the wreck with his towed camera sled...before he casts stones about the crow's nest, he should first explain what happened in 1986 to the gooseneck vent (the only one to survive the sinking intact) and thermotank on top of the Officer's Quarters. And it is ridiculous for RMST to point fingers at Cameron for damaging the wreck when they today employ the same vehicles and pilots. Let's face it...if you want to see Titanic, you have to accept the fact that the process of either actively recovering artefacts or passively recording information from a shipwreck at that depth is riskier than steaming through an ice field at full speed. With the sole exception of the "pirate" expedition of 2002, it appears to me that every visitor to the wreck -- from Ballard in 1985 to NOAA just this year -- has approached it with extraordinary respect and care.

The example of the Estonia earlier in this thread is an unfortunate one. The Swedish government has shut down all explorations of the wreck, including ones proposed by the Marine Forensic Panel sponsored by SNAME. Because of this, we do not know exactly why the Estonia sank. Without that information, the disaster might be repeated. In my opinion, the Swedish government should allow a forensic exploration of the wreck to determine exactly what went wrong with the Estonia...if the bow doors failed, for instance, there might need to be a retrofit of similar existing systems and a redesign of future systems. Understanding what went wrong in maritime disasters is how we help prevent future disasters from occurring. I am a maritime engineer and I know that you cannot depend on learning critical safety lessons from simulations...you learn instead from experience in the operational environment.

By what does this have to do with the recovery of artefacts from Titanic? Only the diehard advocates for leaving the wreck in peace would argue against a forensic examination of the Titanic wreck to determine exactly how she sank, but what about the retrieval of personal artefacts? Normally, I don't pay much attention to personal artefacts, but if the display of those artefacts brings in money that will fund continued exploration of the wreck, then I'm glad for their retrieval. The bulk of wreck exploration is dependent on how profitable the venture is. RMST is dependent on the revenue that is generated by the display of artefacts. Jim Cameron used footage from his first visits to the wreck to make his film, then leveraged off the success of that film to secure funding for his second expedition. Ballard depends heavily on government funding, which is never a sure thing. NOAA has just conducted the most thorough examination of the wreck exterior and a host of scientific experiments that hopefully will determine exactly what the environment is doing to the wreck, but interior examination/exploration/analysis is still better handled by private concerns, like Cameron's. Regardless of how each of these expeditions was funded, though, the point is that we have learned more about Titanic with each and every one. Even the "tourist dives" have brought back useful information.

Since this is all just my opinion anyway, I'll add that it would not bother me in the least if artefact retrieval is limited to the taking of those objects that either: 1) have been identified as relevant to the forensic analysis of how the ship operated and sank; or 2) are of historical significance and at risk of being lost forever because of the wreck's natural deterioration. With the wreck's superstructure collapsing around it, why wouldn't we want to recover the world's only known surviving Marconi 5-kW transmitting set before it, too, is lost to history?

It is out of respect -- and a sense of justice --for the dead that crime scenes are thoroughly examined and evidence taken for detailed analysis...all in a effort to reconstruct exactly what happened so that the crime will not be repeated. The Titanic wreck is in many ways similar to a crime scene. Evidence must be recorded in situ and then possibly be removed afterward for detailed analysis. Not only will we learn about the manner in which the ship sank, but also quite a bit about the way in which she was operated. If you were to compare books written about Titanic before 1985 with those that followed the discovery of the wreck, you might start to gain an appreciation for how much information the wreck has given us. There is so much that we would not know today has a "hands-off" policy been observed from the start. Now that technology is just now providing the opportunity to significantly explore the interior, the same continues to hold true.

Is there a difference between salvaging from the exterior of the wreck and salvaging from inside? Not in my opinion, if the considerations above have been taken into account. I personally don't see the need to recover Harper's bowler hat, but I would view the recovery of the Marconi apparatus to be a great service to both wireless and Titanic historians. I would never advocate a one-size-fits-all policy of salvage, but rather a decision to retrieve based on an evaluation of each artefact's worth, on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes right down to it, neither I nor my opinions shape the policy regarding salvage of the Titanic wreck. So, agree or disagree with me...it's just an intellectual exercise.

Parks
 

Magnus Lundin

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Jul 6, 2004
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I think you made a good point there, Parks. While I don't like the retrieval of personal artifacts from the wreck, I could perhaps support retrieval of objects that could be useful for forensic analysis (as long as it don't compromise the structural integrity of Titanic's hull further).

About Estonia, while this is off-topic, this could perhaps serve as an illustration. The bowdoor was retrieved (it had broken loose from the ship prior to the disaster), and was the basis for the forensic analysis that could take place. While Estonia is a sanctuary today, dives took place during 1996 (EDIT: sorry, 1994) to investigate what caused the accident and objects (mostly connected to the bowdoor hydraulics) were removed. While this is a current event (and disputed) there are some similarities to the postition of retrieval of objects from the Titanic for forensic analysis. Unfortunately, the artifacts retrieved has mostly been of more personal nature while the scientific goals was secondary (I think that Roy Cullimore also says something similar in his article here at Encyclopedia Titanica, go check it out). I will however never support retrieval of personal items.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Magnus,

There is some controversy about those dives on the Estonia. The dives were sponsored by the Swedish government and independent analysis was not permitted. With current restrictions in place, there is no way to verify the conclusions of the government-sponsored analysis.

Parks
 

Bill Willard

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Mar 24, 2001
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Parks, wonderfully stated. I would add one thought. In addition to funding new expeditions to the wreck, exhibition revenue must also pay for the conservation and preservation of the artifacts, which is a continual and very expensive process. I appreciate what you said, and again it was tremendously stated.
 
May 12, 2005
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Eric:

I didn't say anyt


Eric:

I didn't say anything against RMSTI whatsoever in my post, much less make any "nasty points." You've constructed that yourself. My own regard for George Tulloch was very high in fact, despite our differences on the salvage question. And so far as I know he respected my feelings as well. You have shown no such regard, only intolerance toward those of us who believe differently.

Tony Halsbury was making no statement about any particular group of salvagers but was addressing a general concern about the site being a grave, which was his opinion and the opinion of many. I don't think he ever knew what RMSTI was.

His words were not inflammatory just because he felt deeply about the subject and because he specifically didn't want his grandmother's belongings exhibited, should any be found . His idea to make sure that nothing of his grandmother's was displayed would be within his right and few understanding people would question that.

Tony was only meaning that he would make sure to contact the salvage party or parties and have them remove the items. He wouldn't have needed to threaten a lawsuit; his personal appeal would have been enough. His words were expressed privately to me, out of deep emotion, not to any salvager or to any public source (until now). Those words only show his regard for his family and his own deep personal wound which the Titanic caused.

"...If you accept payment from an insurance company for lost property, you don't have the right to say it's "your property" any longer unless you plan to give some compensation to the people who recover it..."

The Duff Gordons filed no insurance claims, so they accepted no money for their lost valuables.

The opinions about forensics expressed here aren't my concern - a case could be made for those being retrieved, perhaps. I'm concerned about the retrieval of personal items, which to me is irreverent and immoral, and also about the sloppy and melodramatic display of commonplace items of no historical value.

Randy
 

Eric Paddon

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Jun 4, 2002
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"I didn't say anything against RMSTI whatsoever in my post, much less make any "nasty points." You've constructed that yourself."

Excuse me, but I find that argument dubious in light of your own words in your own post #804. You indulge in a litany of complaints about artifact exhibitions, the only ones of which are put together by RMSTI, and now you say you're not being critical of them. You can't have it both ways.

You used words such as "unholy", "desecration", "morbid" and that what you see at artifact exhibitions is "revolting". I think you're engaging in a bit of a double standard if you think that that kind of rhetorical excess isn't going to invite a response especially from someone like myself who saw no such behavior at any of three artifact exhibitions I attended, and who came away for the first time in 20 years believing I had at last made a connection with the ship that had never taken place since I'd begun reading about the Titanic. You did not acknowledge anywhere in your post that the kind of behavior that upset you is something that is not confined to an artifact exhibition (flowers on J.Dawson's grave anyone?), you attempted to make the argument that the presence of an artifact exhibition is what brought that unseemly behavior that rankled you so much, and that I objected to for what I felt was a legit reason.

"only intolerance"

That too is false. I have seen this game before where criticism of an extreme anti-salvage position is called "intolerance" when in fact there is no effort on my part to deny you of your right to state a position in terms I find objectionable. Where the true intolerance lies from my standpoint, is with those like you who think their views should be immune from criticism when they decide to express them with the kind of loaded rhetoric you chose to engage in.

"Tony Halsbury was making no statement about any particular group of salvagers"

We've only had one group that has salvaged and whose reputation has been trashed from Day 1 by Robert Ballard on down, and I think this is being disingenuous. The debate centers around the group that has done the salvage and who is displaying them (which was what aroused your ire to begin with) and since we have only one group doing the salvaging any comment on the concept of salvage becomes by default a comment on them.

"His idea to make sure that nothing of his grandmother's was displayed would be within his right and few understanding people would question that."

I'm sorry but I do understand what it means when someone accuses someone else of engaging in "criminal" conduct and that they are prepared to "take action". Those are the words you used, and that means that if it could have been done there would have been the kind of legal action that I personally have little sympathy for as it's applied to this instance.

"Tony was only meaning that he would make sure to contact the salvage party or parties and have them remove the items."

Well if that's the case, then why I wonder, was it beyond your ability to say that such an appeal would have been done in a the context of a dignified request? You did Mr. Halsbury no favors in the way you described his remarks, which I believe invited criticism when placed in the context of your previous remarks.

"The Duff Gordons filed no insurance claims, so they accepted no money for their lost valuables."

Fair point. But compensation would still be owed if a survivor's descendant ever wished to argue for the return of an item.

"and also about the sloppy and melodramatic display of commonplace items of no historical value."

That "melodramatic display" as you put it is more present in the non-artifact display at Orlando, and compared to that, there was a lot more dignity in the three RMSTI exhibitions I attended. As for the precious treasures they've recovered having "no historical value" that is an argument that is not valid except to those who are adherents to the "chronological snobbery" concept that defines age as the value of something to history.

In the meantime, I stand by everything I've said regarding your arguments, and if that means speaking out against inflammatory rhetoric and positions I am strongly opposed to, so be it. One thing that won't be is "intolerant" because unless I threaten your right to express yourself, there is no "intolerance" by any normal definition of the term.
 
May 12, 2005
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This cannot go on ad infinitum as you are giving me a headache.

I'm sorry that I'm not wedded to RMSTI and so don't know what exhibitions they sponsored, etc. Not all of us have enrolled in Titanic Salvage 101. I thought it was an independent company that RMSTI contracted with to put on the touring exhibition that I saw. I may be mistaken, but I thought there was some sort of performance troupe that put that show on.

I was criticizing the manner in which it was presented. Like I said, there were some very glaring historical and other inaccuracies. And just the set up was a real circus, very tacky (and, yes, morbid). Several others (some of them members of this board) also witnessed similarly ill-produced exhibits in their cities. If RMSTI was responsible ultimately for how crass and pedestrian some of these shows were, then shame on them. But I was not actually thinking of the group at the time I posted my comments. Isn't it likely that it was not their fault but the fault of the entertainment outfit they hired?

Perhaps the company has become more careful since then. I know, for instance, that some of the direct identification of and historical consultation on the items retrieved is (or was) being conducted by Bill Sauder, whose knowledge and integrity is universally respected. Despite my personal feelings on the subject of salvage, I attended Bill's fascinating lecture at BTS last year and was very much impressed by his dedication to his work.

But what exactly is your interest in defending RMSTI so violently? Are you connected with the group? I have shared why I feel personally involved. But why are you so adamant?
 
May 12, 2005
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Eric:

As to Tony Halsbury, I have already apologized for bringing his feelings into this - both publicly and privately to his family, some of whom are members here. If you'd like to continue this discussion privately so that we can better understand one another on this point, please feel free to contact me.

I am not angry at all, except at myself for possibly hurting my friend's memory by bringing his name into a conflict he would not have willingly engaged in.

Randy
 
W

William Barr

Guest
Let's play the quotables game Part two:

I'll place two quotes here, and let's see who can identify who said it and when. Here goes:

" The real turning point for me was when we found where the shoes where the people came to rest on the bottom of the ocean. Ken Marshall came into my office with literally tears in his eyes and said you got to see this, and there on the screen was these two pairs of shoes. Exactly where the body had landed, there was no doubt about it, this was where a body had landed. Once we saw this one pair of shoes, we started seeing shoes all over the place. Children's shoes, Adult's shoes, crewmembers shoes and it was the signature of their death. It was just very powerful and I just felt it was not my right to disturb this site."

****************
" You know when there is two and a half miles of water, solid water, over your head, working in slow-motion and you know it's costing you five dollars a second, FIVE DOLLARS A SECOND, that sharpens your concentration, I mean that is real pressure. "
****************
And for the bonus round:

" Is that what I think, it is? "
" It's a piece of Brass, that's all, put it back on the ship."

" You should not open that trunk because it is not yours. Put it back on the bottom. "

" Ok, I'll put it on the bottom. "

Okay, which discoverer/salvager?
 

Scott Newman

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Jun 16, 2004
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"I'm sorry that I'm not wedded to RMSTI and so don't know what exhibitions they sponsored"

Quite honestly, you guys need to find girlfriends...or if you already have them...spend more time with them.

Note: This is just a little humor for a thread that is becoming far too...let's find some big words...rhetorical, melodramatic, irreverent, immoral, and just plain ugly.

On a serious note, the shade of gray that is defined as "Salvage" at the wreck has been a source of heated debate since the ship was discovered. Yes we've heard the Ballard tales, and yes we all know where RMSTI stands on the issue. We all have our own opinions on the matter and guess what...chances are, none of us are changing our minds any time soon. So, I am very interested in each member's opinion as they teach me a little more about the wreck that I didn't know...however...when it comes to this bickering back and forth, you might as well have a Cock fight...because no matter how friendly the bird may seem, no two birds shake hands and say "I'm sorry, I'll back off".
 

Eric Paddon

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Jun 4, 2002
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"But what exactly is your interest in defending RMSTI so violently? Are you connected with the group?"

It's truly amazing how defending the fine work an organization has done in providing the most meaningful experience that I personally as a Titanic enthusiast have ever experienced, and feeling grateful that they made that possible, always leads some people to think that I must be on the take to say nice things about them (the pet theory of the late Mr. ESP) or am "connected" with them (which as far as I'm concerned is making the same insinuation).

I defend RMSTI because they made what had been a dream of mine since childhood to see the Titanic brought back to life with my own eyes a reality. Nothing more. When I see people indulge recklessly in what I think is an untenable and irresponsible perspective that in too many instances was rooted in outright deception (i.e.: Ballard) that produces a deeply felt reaction that represents the mere expression of what is a strongly held personal conviction.

It seems to me that there are too many anti-salvage people who will always believe that harsh rhetoric and loaded words is to be their exclusive domain and woe unto those who feel the need to respond in kind on occasion.
 

Scott Newman

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Jun 16, 2004
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I know the bonus part...I believe it was a conversation with Ralph White and Emory Christoph...White wanted to take some toys home with him(sorry, I am not sure about the name spelling)...Robert Ballard said the first quote...several months after visiting the wreck. I'm not sure about the second.

I'm really sorry...I think I really butchered Christoph's name!
 

Eric Paddon

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Jun 4, 2002
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And for the record, Ballard's quote does not jibe with the documented record of what he said publicly on the matter of salvage.

The White-Kristoff conversation is in "Titanica." If I'm not mistaken wasn't that suitcase the Howard Irwin one that was eventually recovered?
 

Scott Newman

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Jun 16, 2004
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For the record, I'd like to see the dates of those two Ballard quotes. I believe he discovered those boots several months after the expedition when they were working on the mosaic...When was the documented record taken? If it were immediately after the expedition, but before the shoe discovery, I might understand his change of tune.

However, if the testimony came after the boot discovery, for example...then I would agree that his change of tune does not make sense.

I think I need to quit staying up so late. My messages are now starting to "not make sense".