Right now the artifacts raised from Titanic are up for auction but only as a single lot. RMS Titanic, Inc. did not like this restriction since it makes hard to find a buyer or group of buyers willing to put up $189 million. However the proposed auction has been delayed and a press release yesterday indicates they are in negotiations with multiple parties. A press conference originally scheduled for 11 April has been put off until further notice. One wonders who these buyers might be considering the huge price tag. It could be a consortium of museums, government entities, or very wealthy business people who want to continue the exhibition.
Robert Ballard, who was part of the expedition that found Titanic in 1985, now regrets disclosing its location. Further he wishes now he could have made a claim on the wreck to prevent salvage. Except of course he could not have done so easily. Likely he would be excluded do his association with Wood’s Hole at the time. Wood’s Hole received government money and worked with the U.S. Navy. And government employees and those who work or affiliated with government are excluded from making salvage claims (which would give them an unfair advantage over private companies). Then there is the fact that Ballard was a reserve naval officer. Ballard knows this making his recent claim on National Public Radio curious. Then again perhaps it was just wistful thinking on his part.
Perhaps even more odd is the United Nations stance in the manner. Some years ago there was an attempt to secure a treaty to protect Titanic from further salvage. The proposed signatories would have been Britain, France, Canada, and the United States. The Titanic Treaty was never formally ratified and thus never came into effect (supposedly because France did not want to sign). But UNESCO apparently has included Titanic as protected under a 2001 convention on underwater cultural heritage. This comes into effect this year according to MSNBC thus any further salvage would allow parties to the convention to seize artifacts and prevent exploration that is “deemed unscientific or unethical.”
The problem is that no one is going to enforce this if the party involved either follows maritime law to salvage or is simply diving down to view the wreck. Simply diving down to view is allowed despite a foolish court action by RMS Titanic, Inc years ago to stop it (they lost, by the way). And UNESCO can do nothing if artifacts are raised and taken to a country that tells them to take a hike (like China or Russia). This sounds like your typical feel good thing that makes one feel good but actually achieves very little in the end.
That leaves Doug Wooley, who claims to own Titanic and wants to raise it, with a problem. Good luck on that Doug, 🙂