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Why Titanic was never recovered? She is invaluable and worth researching, but she will never see daylight again

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Posted May 31, 2018

Titanic is one of the most famous ships in history. Of course, a lot of her popularity came because of the tragic end of her career. Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg on her first journey from Southampton to New York in April 1912. More than 1500 people died that night and the tragedy was popularized by numerous books, movies and conspiracy theories. Now Titanic is resting on the bottom of the ocean, but why she was never lifted and displayed in some museum?

Bow view in 2004 – it definitely doesn’t look like this now. Image credit: NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island via Wikimedia

This question may look bizarre to some, but in reality it is actually quite serious. You may find a quick answer – the operation would be too expensive. That is true, but you have to evaluate the fact that Titanic now is pretty much invaluable piece of history. Also don’t say that it is impossible to lift such a heavy thing from such a huge depth. Yes, Titanic is resting at depth of 3.7 kilometres, but we have technology to reach it. In fact, many artefacts have been recovered and were exhibited in countless museums and private collections. Some structure would probably have to be built, but a ship like Titanic could be recovered at least in pieces.

A watch from Titanic – a lot of non-iron artefacts have been recovered. Image credit: Digiblue via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

So why is it that no one even considered pulling Titanic out of cold dark water of the Atlantic ocean? Well, the simple truth is that Titanic is pretty much gone at this point – it rusted away. There isn’t really anything that could be recovered as a single piece. In this way, it is actually more valuable to research it where it is. Titanic broke in half when she was sinking – her bow and stern now lay 600 meters apart. All the little pieces spread in the area of 38 square kilometres. Two big parts maybe were worth salvaging long decades ago, but not anymore.

Titanic’s wreckage was only discovered in 1985 after multiple unsuccessful missions. At that time it was already a huge pile of rust and not much more. Maybe a decade will pass and you won’t even be able to recognize what became from Titanic. If you tried moving it, it would simply fall apart into a huge pile of iron oxide.

Rusticles below Titanic’s anchor. Image credit: Lori Johnston via Wikimedia

Scientists have noticed that Titanic is growing huge rusticles – they grow for 5-10 years, then break off and fall down. Condition of her steel body is just beyond any kind of rescue and a lot of it has already been covered up by ocean sand. However, pieces that haven’t been covered up have been salvaged. Non-iron objects have been lifted out of the ocean and travelled the world gathering huge crowds of curious people. One of the most impressive recovered pieces is of course the bell of the ship.

And of course Titanic is invaluable, but who would pay for its recovery? The operation would be extremely risky and probably unsuccessful and you wouldn’t even be able to sell anything. UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage states that sites like Titanic’s wreck are untouchable and you cannot sell its artefacts. And you cannot forget that Titanic is a grave now. Back in 2012 a picture was published of something that looked like a shoe and coat – it was probably remains of one of the passengers.

And so Titanic is now given away to time and the ocean. It is almost gone now, but not forgotten. Titanic’s tragedy encouraged creating new safety rules and promoting safer maritime technologies.

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