Judge defers decision on Titanic salvage mission

The decision on proposals to recover the telegraph machine from the Titanic by cutting a hole in the ship’s hull has been deferred by the US judge presiding over the case.

Judge defers decision on Titanic salvage mission

with reporting by Ben Finley

The decision on proposals to recover the telegraph machine from the Titanic by cutting a hole in the ship’s hull has been deferred by the US judge presiding over the case.

As previously

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Lawyers for RMS Titanic, the US firm hoping to salvage wreckage from the ship, called witnesses before a US federal judge this week to explain why they should be allowed to possibly cut into the rapidly deteriorating ship to recover the device before it is irretrievable.

“It’s one of those iconic artefacts, like the signal flares (that the sinking ship launched),” said David Gallo, an oceanographer who retired from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and is now a paid consultant for the firm.

Mr Gallo, who appeared at federal court in Norfolk, Virginia, said salvaging the device would not be “grave robbery” but a way to connect people to the ship’s legacy and honour its passengers.

International Maritime Organisation consultant Michael Kingston, from Goleen in West Cork, wrote to Judge Rebecca Beach Smith, who presides over Titanic salvage matters, urging her to consider Ireland’s interest as a nation in the case due to its close connections with the ship.

He said there has been no consultation on the need to consider the families of those who died, or for the victims of the tragedy.

A large majority of those who lost their lives were Irish and British citizens, who at that time would have been fellow citizens.

“In combination, Irish and British, we are talking about the memory of 1,000 people, many of whom are entombed in the vessel,” Mr Kingston said.

The company is already facing resistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which represents the public’s interest in the wreck site.

The US Attorney’s Office in Virginia represents NOAA. Its lawyers argued in court documents that the proposed retrieval runs contrary to prior court orders that prohibit the firm from cutting holes or taking items from the wreck.

The items that the firm has salvaged, including silverware, china and gold coins, came from a debris field outside the ship.

“It seems clear that this is not simply a ‘one-off’ proposal for the Marconi wireless telegraph, but a placeholder for future requests to take similar actions in order to recover other artefacts from inside the wreck,” federal lawyer Kent P Porter wrote.

Karen Kamuda, president of the Massachusetts-based Titanic Historical Society, said the society “has been against disturbing the wreck since 1985 because it is a grave site. As usual, it’s all about money.”

Judge Beach Smith said it was too early for her to make any decisions on the proposal. She said she needed more details and proposed scheduling another hearing sometime in the future.

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