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Friday, August 14, 1998 Published at 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK


Sci/Tech

Titanic salvage hits storm of protest

Afloat again after 86 years: the 20 ton section of hull (Discovery Channel)


Gary Duffy reports on the row over the salvage
A large section of the Titanic's hull has been raised despite protests by survivors and relatives of victims of the disaster that the ship is a sea grave and should be left alone.

Salvage company RMS Titanic Inc., which has sole salvage rights for the wreck and has already raised more than 5000 artefacts, took just 40 minutes to raise the 20 ton, 14ft by 23ft steel section on Monday.

The section, known as "the big piece", was recovered from 2.5 miles below the North Atlantic, 370 miles off Newfoundland, Canada.


[ image: Second time lucky, but should it have stayed on the bottom? (Discovery Channel)]
Second time lucky, but should it have stayed on the bottom? (Discovery Channel)
It broke away from the starboard side of the hull as the Titanic sank after striking an iceberg on 15 April 1912.

The successful salvage operation represents a triumph for the 100 researchers and scientists of RMS Titanic Inc., who made an abortive attempt to raise the same section in 1996.

Titanic survivors and relatives of the victims criticised the decision to raise the hull section and appealed for the wreck to be respected as a sea grave.

Violet Jessop survived both the sinking of the Titanic and its sister ship, Britannic. She died in 1970, but her niece, Margaret Meehan, says she would not have approved of the salvage operation.


Titanic survivor Millvina Dean opposes the salvage
"We felt it was the wrong thing - that it was inappropriate. The wreck should be left in peace," said Miss Meehan.

"It must be remembered that 1,523 people died."

Historical advisor to RMS Titanic Inc., Charles Haas, defended the operation.

"The Titanic has not revealed human remains in more than 130 dives by four different organisations," he said.

RMS Titanic Inc. has also drawn criticism from historians who accuse the company of damaging the site and "cashing in" on the publicity generated by the success of James Cameron's film, Titanic.

Curator of the Nova Scotia Maritime Museum, Dan Conlin, said: "It's not a question of actually finding a bone. There are human remains in one form or another around that wreck, as well as all sorts of shattered lives directly associated with it. That does mean extra special care."

Mr Conlin represents an international group of museums opposed to commercial salvage of the Titanic.


[ image: Salvage: said to be
Salvage: said to be "cashing in" on film publicity
"They're removing stuff that no scientist or archaeologist would ever take off the bottom. That piece of hull they pulled up, they're taking it up for the showbiz stuff," he said.

Discovery Channel, the American cable station and a partner in the operation, claimed the salvage operation would save parts of the Titanic for posterity.

Producer Bob Reid said: "There will come a time, perhaps in our lifetime, when the ship will no longer be recognisable as a ship, but instead as a pile of rubble on the ocean floor."

More than 2000 people, including actor Burt Reynolds and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, watched from two cruise ships as the hull section was gently lowered onto the deck of the salvage vessel Abeille.

RMS Titanic Inc says the hull section and other artefacts will eventually be put on display in a museum in the US, possibly as early as 5 September.

Discovery Channel will be broadcasting live footage from the wreck of the Titanic at 0100 GMT on Monday 17 August.

Live images of the wreck will appear simultaneously on Discovery Channel Online.



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