Friday, April 6, 2012

"Should the Titanic's Artifacts Stay Underwater?" poll



Who cares....7

The "Who cares" voters may be too young or have no sense of history. Would King Tut's treasures remain in situ? I see no reason to halt the recovery of artifacts whether it is done for profit or not. Most of us will never visit the site and it is a connection with the past via the artifacts that do make a living history and make the touring exhibition circuit. There is one in my city now.

"Should the Titanic's Artifacts Stay Underwater?"

As the 100th anniversary of the ship's demise approaches, an auction and a museum exhibit take two distinct approaches to commemorating the disaster. Are the remains meant for public education or private mourning?


Samantha Grossman

April 5th, 2012


From the educational to the experiential to the downright bizarre, ways to commemorate the April centennial of the Titanic disaster won’t be in short supply. Whether through eerily specific replica cruises or the more foreseeable 3-D release of James Cameron’s 1997 film, history buffs and Leonardo DiCaprio fans alike can pay homage to one of the world’s deadliest peacetime sea tragedies 100 years after it happened.

While cruising the Atlantic or immersing oneself in the world of Jack and Rose might re-create the experience of being on the ill-fated ship, a new exhibit at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium aims to re-create the adventure of discovering its resting place. The team behind the exhibit, called “Titanic — 12,450 Feet Below,” includes Robert Ballard, a former U.S. Navy officer who discovered the Titanic in a 1985 expedition with French oceanographer Jean-Louis Michel. Ballard is the founder and president of the Institute for Exploration, a division of the Sea Research Foundation, which is the nonprofit that operates Mystic Aquarium.

Set to launch April 12, the exhibit aims to tell a unique but comprehensive story. The lead creator, Tim Delaney, says that means establishing an emotional connection with the events leading up to the disaster and the eventual discovery of its remains. What it does not entail — and what Ballard expressly opposes — is displaying any artifacts extracted from the wreckage. Ballard compares the experience of discovering Titanic to visiting a historic battlefield — a final resting place, a gravesite.

“You don’t go to Gettysburg with a shovel,” he says. “If we cannot protect the Titanic, what can we protect?”

So instead of focusing on the aftermath of the discovery, the exhibit celebrates “the art of the hunt,” Ballard says. After experiencing a digital re-creation of the ship’s collision with an iceberg and its subsequent capsizing, visitors enter a simulated undersea world, meant to re-create Ballard’s journey, which he says was at times taxing and tedious but ultimately rewarding.

With 52 years of experience in undersea exploration, Ballard harbors reverence toward all shipwrecks, particularly those whose death tolls crept as high as the Titanic’s. That’s why he questions the ethics of extracting and displaying Titanic artifacts — because they’re personal effects of the deceased, meant to be preserved and respected.

“The deep sea is the largest museum on our planet, but there’s no lock on its door,” Ballard says. And indeed, since Ballard and Michel discovered the Titanic some 27 years ago, whether or not the sea should be “locked up” has been a divisive issue. Just six weeks prior to the discovery, another noted ocean explorer, Mel Fisher, discovered the wreck site of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a ship en route to Spain that sank in 1622 off the coast of Florida. Fisher called for the recovery of the site’s gold, silver, jewels and artifacts, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. After legal battles with Congress, Fisher managed to victoriously maintain the phrase finders keepers.

Seeking to protect Titanic artifacts from a similar fate, Ballard appeared before Congress in 1985, shortly after the discovery. The following year, President Reagan signed into law the R.M.S. Titanic Maritime Memorial Act to establish guidelines for exploration and recovery. The bill prohibits any individual or vessel under U.S. jurisdiction, or without a registered nationality, from removing, injuring or selling Titanic property without a permit issued by the Secretary of Commerce. It mandates that permits can be granted only if the activity in question furthers educational, scientific or cultural purposes in the public interest.

But neither legislation nor Ballard’s stance on artifact recovery have kept Titanic heirlooms on the ocean floor. In fact, another event marking the tragedy’s centennial is an auction of more than 5,000 artifacts, ranging from pocket-size personal effects to a 17-ton slab of the ship’s hull. The auction, coordinated by Guernsey’s Auction House in New York, won’t sell the items individually, but rather as one collection. Currently owned by R.M.S. Titanic Inc., a division of Premier Exhibitions Inc., the artifacts are displayed at five locations around the world, and will be consolidated as a single set for the first time.

The heirlooms’ new owner could be an individual, a corporation or even a city, but the party must agree to keep the collection together as one unit, says Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s. The owner must also agree to display a considerable portion for public access, corresponding to the clause in the R.M.S. Titanic Maritime Memorial Act that requires salvaged artifacts to further “cultural purposes.” Serious bidders must communicate with the auction house in advance to determine if their intentions adhere to all guidelines. Some artifacts will be on display at the April 11 reception, but it won’t be a traditional auction as much as a public announcement of the winning bidder.

Though Ettinger says he’s aware of the conflicting beliefs regarding the extraction of artifacts, he says items recovered from the scenes of a tragedy can help improve knowledge of the events. For example, the slab of Titanic’s hull, simply dubbed “the big piece,” has given scientists the opportunity to study the ship’s metallurgy and construction.

Understanding any structural shortcomings or defects that affected the Titanic disaster could help prevent future catastrophes, Ettinger argues. “If we can learn from the past, this is the way to do it,” he says.

All of the 5,500 items heading to the auction block have been recovered from the debris field surrounding the disintegrating ship — as far as 13 miles away, Ettinger notes. Along with the 17-ton bulk of the hull, the collection includes a trove of personal belongings plucked from the icy depths, from a pair of binoculars to a bracelet with the name “Amy” engraved in diamonds.

According to Ettinger, about six parties have come forward with a serious interest in acquiring the collection. Though it’s difficult to predict where the artifacts will end up, it’s safe to say there’s at least one noted explorer who will not be bidding.

And this...

"Titanic wreck to be protected by UN maritime convention?"

Fears of damage to historic site by tourist vessels and submarines prompts Unesco to confer protection on sunken liner


Robert Booth

April 5th, 2012

The United Nations has moved to protect the wreck of the Titanic amid growing concern at its deterioration as a result of tourist visits and exploration submarines crashing into its structure.

The 100-year old wreck has been brought under the cover of the 2001 Unesco convention on the protection of underwater cultural heritage, which gives signed-up member states the right to prevent exploration deemed unscientific or unethical, seize illicitly recovered artefacts and close their ports to all vessels undertaking exploration that is not done according to the principles of the doctrine.

Robert Ballard, the undersea explorer who was part of the expedition that discovered the wreck in 1985, has raised concerns about its condition and in 2004 undertook a dive that found the mainmast had been destroyed, the ship's bell and light torn off and several holes had been made in the deck.

"When [submarines] bump into things, they can do damage," he said at the time. "When they land, they can do damage. You can clearly see, all over the ship, where the common landing sites are knocking the holes in the deck."

Announcing the application of the heritage convention to the wreck on Thursday, Unesco's director general, Irina Bokova, called on divers not to dump equipment or commemorative plaques on the Titanic, a common practice that is causing conservationists significant concern.

"The sinking of the Titanic is anchored in the memory of humanity and I am pleased that this site can now be protected by the Unesco convention," said Bokova.

"But there are thousands of other shipwrecks that need safeguarding as well. All of them are archaeological sites of scientific and historical value. They are also the memory of human tragedy that should be treated with respect. We do not tolerate the plundering of cultural sites on land, and the same should be true for our sunken heritage."

The convention stipulates that underwater heritage should be preserved in its original location in the first instance and that it should not be exploited for trade or speculation.

However, the protections are limited by the fact that neither the US nor Canada is among the 41 signatory states and a number of the tourist and exploration trips chartered to the wreck site 4,000m under the sea off the coast of Newfoundland come from those countries.

A US company called Bluefish is offering 40 places on two trips in submersibles to the wreck this July, with each place costing $59,680 (£37,636). The brochure promises: "Experience for yourself the mystique and majesty of this poignant chapter in humanity's collective history."

Ulrike Guerin, the Unesco official responsible for the convention, said: "Damage has been done by ROVs [remote-controlled submersibles] bumping in the wreck and memorial plaques being placed on it.

"One ROV got also caught in the cables. Artifacts have been taken and are for sale now and this is a main issue. The Unesco convention foresees very detailed rules for activities directed at ancient wrecks, for instance supervision by an archeologist, respect for human remains and the prohibition of the commercial for-profit recovery of artifacts."

HMS Titanic artifact auction

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