by Terri Bey
I would like to start this blog by introducing myself. My name is Terri Bey, from Lexington, KY. I am originally from Edison, NY. I have been a Titanic Enthusiast since about 6 or 7 years old. I was introduced to the RMS Titanic by my father who was born in May of 1904. He would tell me the stories of the disaster repeatedly. Yes, he and my mother, who was 15 years younger had me late in life. Anyway, I read the Walter Lord penned book, "A Night to Remember" (1955) and saw the film based upon the same book and I was hooked for life. I am currently one of several Admins for the Titanic Book Club and I write blogs for the Titanic Book Club Website. I will aim to write a blog on Sundays and Wednesdays as April 10, 1912, the date the Titanic left Southampton, England for her maiden voyage fell on a Wednesday, and April 14, 1912, the fateful evening when the RMS Titanic collided with the iceberg, even though she technically went under on Monday, the 15th. I may even write an occasional blog on Monday. I would like to especially thank Titanic Club owner and main Admin Jill Carlier for giving me this opportunity to write for the website, as well as George Behe and the other Admins.
The subject of today's blog is the rather touchy issue of salvaging artifacts from the wreck of the Titanic. Ever since the discovery of the wreck by Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER and Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a debate began whether to bring up artifacts from the wreck. There were many, including families of victims who were totally against it. The main reason for the objection is many of them felt that the wreck was a memorial to the 1496 passengers who perished in the disaster. Many felt that it was a gravesite to their loved ones as well. Nearly 109 years after the disaster, these arguments are used in opposition to salvage, especially in opposition to the now indefinitely delayed expedition to retrieve the wireless apparatus used by wireless operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride that fateful night.
I, myself, was totally against any sort of salvage when the wreck was discovered. I thought the wreck was a gravesite and I thought the wreck was a memorial. As a lover of the ship itself, I felt she should have been left alone. I think she was the most beautiful man-made object ever built and I still think she is the most beautiful man-made object ever built, but that is a subject for another blog. My mindset was, "Please leave her alone and don't pick pieces of her and pick her apart." "She is torn up as she is and leave her alone." Looking back now, I realize how naive and close-minded I was.
Over the years, when artifacts, such as plates, clothes, and especially the "Big Piece," were being brought up and displayed, I was starting to soften my position on salvaging artifacts from the wreck. I was in awe of all the items being salvaged and I started to learn about the passengers from looking at the artifacts. I could learn how people lived back in those days. I remember when I went to Las Vegas in August of 2000 to see KISS, I went to the Titanic Museum in the Luxor and there were some artifacts. I don't remember exactly which artifacts they were, but I do remember also taking a photo in a green1912-style dress in front of a replica grand staircase. This was likely a temporary exhibition, but regardless, between this exhibition and from watching specials about the artifacts, I started to change my mind about salvaging from the wreck.
I have become a supporter of salvage because future generations can learn from the artifacts. There are artifacts that can teach lessons on how the person lived, such as a suitcase and its contents. There are artifacts that have been brought up that can show how a certain part of the ship operated like one of the ship's telegraphs. The "Big Piece" that is in the Luxor's Titanic Exhibition gives visitors an idea of how well the RMS Titanic was built. Opponents will say that people who want to study the ship can get the same information in a book. I don't agree. While you can learn about the Titanic, its passengers, etc., from books, and there are many great Titanic-related books out there, I don't think solely reading books make the subject of the Titanic come alive. I think that viewing the artifacts as well is a great addition to reading books. You can read about how all the rivets were heat-sealed into Titanic's hull, but if you see the "Big Piece" in Las Vegas you get an idea of how massive the Titanic was, rather than solely reading a book.
As the wreck disappears, salvaging valuable pieces, such as the wireless apparatus will become more difficult. I hope that the apparatus can be salvaged once this pandemic passes. I feel that there should be attempts to get as much from the wreck as possible, as there are two choices: salvation or destruction. The Titanic disaster must not be forgotten as it has many lessons from which modern-day society can learn, such as being aware of complacency and arrogance. We need to save as much from the wreck as possible for future generations.
Feedback: Terri Bey: Alydace@yahoo.com