Plan to retrieve Titanic radio spurs debate over human remains
4 min read
Lawyers for the US government have raised that question in an ongoing court battle to block the planned expedition.
The company, RMS Titanic Inc, wants to exhibit the ship's Marconi wireless telegraph machine. It broadcast the sinking ocean liner's distress calls and helped save about 700 people in lifeboats. Retrieving the equipment would require an unmanned submersible to slip through a skylight or cut into a heavily corroded roof on the ship's deck. A suction dredge would remove loose silt, while manipulator arms could cut electrical cords. Loading RMS Titanic says human remains likely would've been noticed after roughly 200 dives. "It's not like taking a shovel to Gettysburg," said David Gallo, an oceanographer and company adviser. "And there's an unwritten rule that, should we see human remains, we turn off the cameras and decide what to do next." The dispute stems from a larger debate over how the Titanic's victims should be honoured, and whether an expedition should be allowed to enter its hull. In May, a federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia, approved the expedition. A section of the hull was raised in 1998, causing international outrage. Credit:RMS Titanic/AP US District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith wrote that recovering the radio "will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives." But the US government filed a legal challenge in June, claiming the undertaking would violate federal law and a pact with Britain recognising the wreck as a memorial site. US lawyers argue the agreement regulates entry into the wreck to ensure its hull, artefacts and "any human remains" are undisturbed. The…