The expedition by the Georgia-based company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic is being challenged in the U.S. District Court located in Norfolk, Virginia, that oversees Titanic-related salvage matters.
The case hinges on federal law that regulates entering the severed hull of Titanic, and disturbing or altering the wreck. It is also regulated by a pact that was made with Great Britain that the Titanic would be treated as a memorial and gravesite of the over 1,500 people who died after the ship hit an iceberg and sank in 1912. The government is concerned the expedition could disturb artifacts as well as any human remains that may still exist.
According to RMS Titanic Inc., pictures of the entire wreck will be taken, including pictures from “where deterioration” has opened areas that make exploration possible “without interfering with the current structure.”
Artifacts from the debris field as well as “free-standing objects inside the wreck” might be recovered, according to the company. This includes items from the Marconi room, where the Titanic’s radio is held, that are not fixed to the wreck. The radio sent Morse code messages that the Titanic had collided with an iceberg.
The company stated it did not intend to seek a permit but would “work collaboratively” with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, the government says the company needs the permit as well as needs approval from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith gave the company permission for the expedition in May 2020 saying that the radio is historically valuable as well as culturally important and could be lost to decay soon. The government then challenged her decision. However, the pandemic caused the expedition to be postponed.
Tentatively, the expedition is planned for May.
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