U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith, in a statement released on Monday, permitted a salvage firm to access the ruins of the Titanic that rests on the floors of the Atlantic after the ‘unsinkable’ sank back in 1912.
The new ruling delivered Monday, for the first time since 2000, allowed the salvage firm — RMS Titanic Inc. — to bring back the Marconi wireless telegraph device attached to the ship, which reportedly sent one of the world’s first successful SOS messages while sinking.
The Marconi Radio system installed in the now sunken ocean liner was relatively new of its time. Other ships had the system installed, but Titanic was among the first to send a distress call in morse code, according to Daily Mail. The message read: “We require immediate assistance’… ‘Have struck iceberg and sinking’… ‘We are putting women off in boats.’
By far one of the most iconic ships to have ever built, achieving even more fame following the industry-changing tragedy, the shipwreck was forbidden from detaching any part of it, by a court ruling in the 2000s.
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However, Judge Smith wrote with the new ruling that the permission to extract the Marconi device “will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives in the sinking,” TIME reports.
In 2012, UNESCO declared the famous ship’s resting place as a cultural heritage site. In 2019, Caladan Oceanic CEO and deep-sea explorer Victor Vescovo led an expedition to the shipwrecks of the Titanic and found the wreck is rapidly decaying. The expedition reportedly found the famous “captain’s bathtub” completely disappear from the scene due to disintegration.
Researchers who had been studying the sunken ship since years estimated the ship’s wreckage would completely disappear within 30 years, a last year’s TIME report says.
Now, taking into consideration the risks, Federal Judge Rebecca Beach Smith agreed to the telegraph is historically and culturally important, and that it could soon vanish in the decaying shipwreck.
Despite RMS Titanic pushing for the ruling until recently, opposition came from other organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), arguing the shipwreck be left untouched as respected as a grave rather than a museum.
But the company argues salvaging the telegraph is essential to tell the stories of the people who under panic, chaos, confusion, and agony tapped the distress calls for nearby ships, until “seawater was literally lapping on their feet.” RMS Titanic will use robotic arms to extract the telegraph from the shipwreck.
Titanic was floating from London to New York and on its maiden voyage in 1912 struck an iceberg, drowning the ship and with it 700 of the 2208 passenger and crew. The doomed ocean liner, still clinging to it’s past, lies 4 km beneath the lightless depths of the Atlantic.