US Sues Over Titanic's Radio

Feds file lawsuit to block salvage operation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 10, 2020 9:05 AM CDT
US Sues Over Titanic's Radio
In this April 10, 1912, file photo, the Titanic leaves Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage. The US government will try to stop a company's planned salvage mission to retrieve the Titanic's wireless telegraph machine.   (AP Photo/File)

The US government will try to stop a company's planned salvage mission to retrieve the Titanic's Marconi wireless telegraph machine, arguing the expedition would break federal law and a pact with Britain to leave the iconic shipwreck undisturbed. US attorneys filed a legal challenge before a federal judge in Norfolk, Va., late Monday. The expedition is expected to begin by the end of August. The Atlanta-based salvage firm RMS Titanic Inc. said it would exhibit the telegraph while telling the stories of the operators who broadcast the sinking ship's distress calls. The company plans to recover the radio equipment from a deckhouse near the Titanic's grand staircase, reports the AP. The mission could require a submersible to cut into the rapidly deteriorating roof if it's unable to slip through a skylight. US attorneys argue the company can't do that.

They say federal law requires the firm to get authorization from the secretary of commerce before conducting salvage expeditions "that would physically alter or disturb the wreck." The agreement with the UK, they add, regulates entry into the hull sections to prevent disturbances to the hull and "other artifacts and any human remains." The international agreement calls for the Titanic to be recognized as "a memorial to those men, women and children who perished and whose remains should be given appropriate respect," per the government's filing. In May, a US district judge agreed with the salvage firm that the telegraph is historically important and could soon disappear within the rapidly decaying wreck. "The salvors have a lot of money tied up in this wreck," says a professor of admiralty law, who adds that their request could open the door to further requests to salvage inside the hull. "Their natural incentive is to try to recover as many artifacts as they ethically can."

(More Titanic stories.)

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