"Let Sleeping Ships Lie"
I believe that through the years people were convinced that the wreckage of the Titanic would never be found. After all, many decades had passed by and still not a trace of the Titanic. The last known position of the ship as relayed by the Titanic crew was: Latitude: 41° 46' N and Longitude: 50° 14' W. No one knew for sure how accurate that position was and even if it was correct, how far the Titanic had drifted from that position prior to and during the ship's descent to the ocean floor. The other factor was technology. Until the mid 1980's the technology required to locate and ultimately visit the Titanic did not exist. On September 1, 1985, seventy-three years after the Titanic sailed into history, Dr Robert Ballard and his team located and photographed the Titanic. At that moment the world's fascination with the "Unsinkable" ship grew even more intense.
The discovery of the Titanic has caused great controversy and has divided many people. Some feel that the wreck of the Titanic should be explored while others believe that the ship should be left undisturbed. There are countless opinions on what should be done with the ship. Some want the Titanic's artifacts to be raised and others view the retrieval of anything from the Titanic as grave robbery.
"The Titanic shouldn't be destroyed because people happen to have a fat-enough checkbook that allows them to go there and dismantle it." -- Robert D. Ballard
Below are several viewpoints on what should (or should not be) done with the Titanic. You may not agree with what you read, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. After reading through this discussion, I sincerely hope that you are inspired to think about this issue and consider where you stand. If you have an opinion you would like to share, please send me e-mail .
It is recommended that you read through each opinion. However, if you want to jump directly to a particular item, click on the corresponding link.
"The ship is its own memorial. Leave it there."
-- Eva Hart, Titanic survivor
My personal feelings lie somewhere between the two extremes. I feel that wreck of the Titanic should be fully explored and that certain artifacts from the Titanic should be recovered and restored. I also believe that the retrieval of some items is borderline grave robbery. I am strongly against bringing up any items that are personal in nature. All personal items should be left undisturbed. In my opinion, the only items which should be retrieved are those that are part of the Titanic. There is definitely a significant difference in retrieving a door knob from the ship and a pair of shoes.
In my opinion, exploring the Titanic is no different from an archeological dig. It is a way to preserve history and share it with others. Over time, the Titanic and its artifacts will probably disappear forever. Being able to view photographs and artifacts from the Titanic stirs inner emotions and reminds us of this tragedy. It makes us think about all those who lost their lives on April 15, 1912. Keeping the memory of the Titanic alive is probably the greatest tribute we could ever give to those that died aboard this "unsinkable" ship.
I also believe that any artifacts recovered from the Titanic should never be sold to, or placed in possession of a private collector. Each artifact should always be on public display in a permanent and/or traveling museum. Charging reasonable admission to help defray the exploration, restoration and exhibit costs is acceptable.
In the past, there have been attempts to bring up large sections of the Titanic. I am against doing this. The Titanic wound up on the ocean floor for a reason and should be left entirely undisturbed as a permanent memorial to all those who sailed aboard the Titanic. Moving part of the Titanic only causes furthur deterioration and damage to the ship.
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My Wife's Opinion
My husband and I agree on two things, items of personal nature should be left undisturbed and that the ship (or parts of it) should not be brought up. To me the seas are a very spiritual and powerful thing. In the case of the Titanic, the Atlantic demonstrated its power and sank her. A great many lives were lost, an undeniable tragedy. I believe that no contents of that ship should be removed, personal or otherwise. A door knob or a chandelier are a part of the final resting place for many an unfortunate soul. It is out of respect for those that died, that I feel their final resting place should be left completely undisturbed. It is true that over time, the ocean will wear away at the ship and one day it will be dust on the ocean floor. So be it. If that wasn't what was meant to be, the Titanic would have never sank. With all the recent books, TV specials, movies and even Broadway plays about the Titanic, it will never be forgotten. But, let those that passed away that night rest in the peace of the waters.
I too think we should remember the Titanic and what happened along with the hopes and dreams of those that set sail on her. Since I have such strong feelings against the "recovery" of any contents of the ship, I should offer an alternative. Although I am not terribly comfortable with this notion either, to me it is the better option. Dive the ship and have pictures taken, but do not touch her. It is said that pictures tell a thousand words, let them speak. Just as there are traveling museum exhibits, so are there traveling photo exhibits. A final display may be a museum which would contain those items which have already been removed from the ship.
Water is chemically very simple, yet it is very powerful. It is the giver and taker of life. In this case, it took the lives of about 1500 people. Lets remember them through such stories as the one told by the member of the Coast Guard (available in the Memories section). One simple story, speaks more powerfully to me than any number of objects behind glass cases in a museum ever could.
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Id like to put in my two cents concerning the recovery controversy. To do so, Id like you to imagine yourself in the following scenario:
Youre sitting at home one Sunday afternoon. Youve previously taped Discoverys "Titanic: Anatomy of a Disaster". On this particular Sunday, you decide to watch it. Youre fascinated by the discoveries the expeditions have uncovered...the rusticle research that will reveal the time she has left, the sonar imaging that revealed the true extent of her damage. About ¾ of the way through the show, they begin showing some of the artifacts theyve recovered. They get to the paper artifacts and are showing a letter on screen. When they get to the signature line, you see YOUR last name! You rewind the tape and discover references to your great aunt and your grandfather. The letter was written from a city in which you know your ancestors lived at that particular time. You KNOW this is a letter from your great grandmother, but its been written to someone youve never heard of.
It may sound bizarre, but its a 100% TRUE scenario. Last April 20th, my husband Dave and I sat in our family room watching that tape. The signature on the letter was "Mrs. Shuttle". The references were to my husbands great Aunt Pearl and his grandfather, Roy. The letter was written by his great grandmother, Ann Elizabeth.
Since discovering the letter on "Anatomy", weve worked closely with RMS Titanic, Inc., who informed us that there was not one, but 19, letters from Daves family. They were written to Howard Irwin, who was NOT listed as a passenger on the ship, yet his trunk was recovered and most of the items therein restored, among them, the letters. Also recovered and restored was a diary Howard kept for the year of 1910. Through that diary we learned that Howard and his best friend, Henry Sutehall, had embarked on a world tour on 1/1/10, intending to spend about 2 years on the road. In the meantime, Howard and his girlfriend of 4 years, Pearl, would try to keep their relationship going through letters. This was to be a difficult task, as Pearl was also traveling, playing her coronet in a vaudeville show throughout the midwest USA.
Because of these letters and Howards personal belongings, we have been able to find not only about 50 additional members of my husbands family we never knew existed, but also Howards and Henrys families. Weve learned who these people were and their stories are now public knowledge. Henry Sutehall, Jr. is no longer "H. Sutehall", a 3rd class passenger on Titanic...no home town, no age. He is now no longer just a printed name on a passenger list. He is a real person, who had real hopes and dreams, who met a girl in Australia he loved dearly...who died a tragic death at 26. Howard is no longer the "missing person". He is someone who, through a bizarre series of events, never boarded Titanic, made it home to the US, eventually married and lived to his 60s. Pearl is now no longer just one of Daves ancestors. We know her now. We know her feelings, we know her spunkiness, we know her hurt, we know her emotions. We know she died of pneumonia at the young age of 22, 6 months before Howard was to return home. We know WHO she was, not just THAT she was.
These people, thanks to the recovery and restoration of Howards personal effects from a trunk on the ocean floor, have once again become real, not only to us, but to thousands. Weve had the opportunity to tell their stories on numerous TV shows, radio shows and newspapers (none of which we received ANYTHING for, except the satisfaction of knowing the story was being told). We recently were honored by being asked to help cut the ribbon at the latest artifact exhibit opening in Boston, where many of Howards belongings, including some of Pearls and Anns letters, are on exhibit. Now, thanks to Boston and the earlier St. Petersburg exhibit, over a million people will know who Howard, Pearl and Henry were. Howards personal effects have, in effect, given them a sort of immortality. As long as Titanics artifacts exist for the public to see, so, too, will they.
Thats what the recovery of personal items can do.
Thanks for listening,
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Joseph A. Pendola
The Discovery of the R.M.S. Titanic has caught my attention and has sparked an interest in me that was not there before, I want to know all that I can about such a tragic day in history. I believe that the wreck is sacred and it's a memorial to all that lost their lives on her. Everyone says that we should remember them, well what better way to remember someone or something than to actually see it with you're own eyes. When I see pictures of the R.M.S. Titanic or the people who were on her I get a very warm feeling within my heart. I guess you could call it love for something that sank 59 years before I was born. My desire would be to see it raised out of the water, so that generation after generation can see and remember the 1522 people that lost their lives. After we are gone who will keep future generations' memories of the loved and departed alive. Seeing the R.M.S. Titanic and all it's beauty will keep the memories alive. Children all over the world will ask their parents "Mom/Dad, what is that and why does it look like that ?" only then when the mother is explaining to the child what happened will the memories of all the lost souls live once more.
Remember one thing "OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND..." People will forget. Make it impossible for them to want to forget...
Bringing up artifacts from the ship is a fantastic way to immortalize the life and times of the passengers of the R.M.S. Titanic. I would like to thank Dr. Robert Ballard from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Jean-Louis Michel from the French Institute for Research and Exploration of the Seas for their desire and determination to find this lost treasure. For without them it would still be undiscovered and many questions would still be unanswered, and Hollywood probably would not have made it's most recent movie.
I know that my opinion is not on the popular side, but it is still an opinion. Thank you for giving me this time to express my feelings and opinions.
-Joseph A. Pendola.
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I would have to agree with your feelings about NOT touching ANY PERSONAL AFFECTS no matter how minute they may seem to others. By some degree, I guess that I would have to be against disturbing ANY artifact related to Titanic only in the aspect that it would be like taking a piece of someone's headstone, in this case, ALL who parished that morning.
Like the theme song from the movie "Titanic" suggests, we must all "go on", but to what extent?
Exploration, discovery, and research are VERY important, but where do we draw the line between our morals, which tells us to leave things be and the need to discover and keeping "THEIR" memory alive? That's not just a question we should ask ourselves, but also the families of those who lost their LIVES that morning.
We may never know the answer, but as far as I'm concerned, I think we can learn from the term, "Tread lightly!" Exploring Titanic is fine, but we should not disturb the tomb in which so many lost their LIVES!
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I, like many thousands of others, saw the recent movie "Titanic". Although much of the plot was pure fantasy, the historical significance and the sheer scale of the movie brought home to me the stunning loss of life and pointed out to us that it wasn't just a ship that sank because it hit an iceberg, but rather some two thousand individual stories of how one can unknowingly pay the ultimate price for the simple act of boarding a ship and placing one's trust in what turned out to be an extremely naive and ill-prepared crew.
The movie was an emotional one for me, not because I had any connection to anyone on the Titanic, but for the simple fact that it really happened, and it was brought to us in such realistic fashion, thanks to millions of dollars worth of special effects. All those people, all those stories, and the profound hold the tragedy would have on us nearly 80 years later is what draws me in emotionally.
I think the Titanic should be left exactly as it now rests, as a reminder, much as a headstone is a reminder of the grave it adorns. All the speculation, all the research, and all the human curiosity will not change the fact that a glorious ship, built in a simpler time when caution may have been second to grandeur, sank in a spectacular fashion, taking so many people with it and leaving so many with drastically different lives. It is a grave, a "holy" place. To salvage it, or "part it out", to use an automobile salvage yard term, is to cheapen it, to devalue it, and most of all, to show the least respect to the victims, the survivors, and their relatives.
It is part of world history, much the same as Arlington National Cemetery is a part of history. It is not to be dug up, re-floated, ransacked, or picked over to satisfy the morbid curiosity of treasure hunters and researchers.
Yes, we have pictures. Yes, we have artifacts. What is their value? Look, but don't touch. Treat it like the cemetery it is. Be thankful that in some way, the Titanic tragedy helped lay the groundwork for vastly improved safety measures not only in maritime safety, but in all forms of transportation. But never forget the human cost and the respect those victims deserve.
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Marco and Jill Cucaz
I think we should look at the issue under a different, more realistic perspective.
Obviously Titanic was not built with the intent to become the tomb for so many people. It was a means of transportation, not a holy grave.
If someone finds the fact of going down there to recover any possible artifact as scandalous, then lets think for a second about the pyramids of Egypt, the ruins of Pompeii, of the Roman Empire, the archaeological digs in China of some ancient Emperor's tomb, Central America, Incas, Aztecs, Navahos...The discoveries and recoveries of the renowned Cousteau family....and the list goes on!
Titanic went down, and with it so did hundreds and hundreds of souls, but not all of them remained trapped in the ship's bowels, many of them were simply dragged down, drowned because they froze to death, dispersed in that vast, dark, cold ocean: the one and true grave site of those victims and of ALL victims of the seas. Does that stop us from going to the beach and take a dip? By doing so aren't we desecrating the resting place of thousands of people?
The oceans are the tomb, not the hunk of twisted metal that went down by mistake. Bringing up as many objects as possible is a duty we have to carry on, in order to provide a clue about those lives that were forever lost. It is the only way we, and the generations to come, will be able to identify ourselves with all those people. If that is not true, then let's bring back to their original resting places all the objects, artifacts, statues, mummies...lets put away our history books and let it be told by word of mouth, until it will become a legend.
Presently many people may be disgusted and horrified by underwater expeditions to the Titanic, but what about hundreds or thousands of years from now, when WE are going to be treated as archaeological discoveries...isn't man's destiny to constantly learn about its own past? It may as well be a curse, but it's reality and we cannot stop it. We are consumed to know about ourselves.
Let Titanic's objects be saved from eternal oblivion and put safely on display for our children, so that they too may know of the elegance and might of the RMS Titanic!
-Marco and Jill Cucaz
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The Ulster Titanic Society
When The Ulster Titanic Society was founded in 1992, it was decided that the official policy of the Society would be to oppose salvage of the wreck of the Titanic. A small number of our members had seen the Ship in 1912, their fathers and grandfathers had worked on her, and some relations (including our late President's father) had died on her.
When our late President Marjorie Wood Frost McCormick, saw the video of Dr Ballard diving to the wreck of Titanic, Marjorie said that she was satisfied that she had seen her father's grave for the first time and that any salvage of the site would be tantamount to grave-robbing.
The Society has retained this stance throughout its life and consistently opposed salvage of the wreck-site of Titanic: the work of the RMS Titanic Inc salvage company was questioned, especially with regard to the actual need for salvage. After all, nothing on Titanic was unique - indeed Titanic was one of three sister-ships- and it was felt that pure financial gain was the main motive of the operation.
It was against this background that the 1997 Ulster Titanic Society International Convention was held. We were honored to have as special guests Mr Charles Haas and Mr Jack Eaton of Titanic International, and Mr George Tulloch from the RMS Titanic Inc Salvage company. Eaton and Haas gave two lectures about the salvage operation in general and attempted to address the concerns of an audience which was uneasy about artifact recovery. The following day, Mr Tulloch participated in a Questions & Answers session wherein the Convention delegates put their misgivings forward. The Society was delighted that Mr Tulloch had decided to attend the Convention when he know that he would therein find his most ardent critics.
Several points were clarified and accepted. First, it is patently the case that there are many salvage companies in the world that would stop at nothing to get their hands on Titanic, and that their plans for the most historic (and perhaps sacred) of all shipwrecks amounted to breaking her up into paperweights and selling off those pieces. So far, RMS Titanic Inc have not expressed any such aim, and state that they would like to see all the artifacts recovered from the wreck kept in one collection and never dispersed. Second, George Tulloch has put together a group which contains experts in every field of excellence connected with Titanic. It is ensured that whatever one's own personal view on the artifacts' recovery, they will be treated with dignity and by the best scientific procedures of the day.
Our View Today:
A vote was taken at the end of the evening, and the result was a split decision: a split of 60/40 for opposing salvage and continuing with the Society's present stance was found. The Ulster Titanic Society, therefore, continues to oppose the present salvage operation on Titanic and this will remain to be the official line. However, it is also accepted that artifact retrieval will continue and that the present salvage company is the most appropriate body to do it.
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