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Titanic wreckage protected by UK/US agreement

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The Titanic story is a tragic one of arrogance and neglect. The "unsinkable" boat sank only had enough life rafts for half the number of passengers. It's a tragedy that led to major changes in the design and operation of ships. It also a story that doesn't fade with time. For a long time, the wreckage of the ship, which was found in 1985, was protected by UNESCO regulations. Then in 2001, the UN set out a series of rules to protect all underwater sites of cultural heritage including the Titanic wreck. In 2003, the UK, US, France and Canada wrote up an agreement on how to preserve the site. In 2020, the UK and US ratified the deal.

Tragedy

Within days of the ship's maiden voyage, it sank to the bottom of the Atlantic after hitting an iceberg. Only 706 of the 2,223 passengers and crew survived according to a US Senate report published a month after the tragedy. When it was built, the Titanic was the largest ship afloat. It displaced 66,000 tonnes of water, and it was the world's largest moveable object. With electronic watertight doors, it seemed there was no way to sink the Titanic. There were 16 watertight compartments in the hall. If four of them were breached, the boat would survive. Unfortunately, the iceberg glanced along the ship buckling the side. Water entered six of the compartments, and the ship sank within three hours of the accident.

Agreement

Within days of the ship's maiden voyage, it sank to the bottom of the Atlantic after hitting an iceberg. Only 706 of the 2,223 passengers and crew survived according to a US Senate report published a month after the tragedy. When it was built, the Titanic was the largest ship afloat. It displaced 66,000 tonnes of water, and it was the world's largest moveable object. With electronic watertight doors, it seemed there was no way to sink the Titanic. There were 16 watertight compartments in the hall. If four of them were breached, the boat would survive. Unfortunately, the iceberg glanced along the ship buckling the side. Water entered six of the compartments, and the ship sank within three hours of the accident.

What will they do?

The agreement between nations doesn't seem to herald an official expedition or any plans to raise the Titanic. There's currently no way it can be done. Some have suggested crazy ideas like filling the wreck with ping-pong balls or injecting it with 180,00 tonnes of Vaseline to make it float to the surface. A half tonne of nitrogen has also been suggested, as has to encase the wreck in an iceberg, but no one's taken any of those suggestions seriously.

Scavengers

The new agreement has already come under challenge by American company RMST. They plan to remove the Titanic's "voice", a wireless radio made by Marconi. For more than 100 years, the wreckage has sat on the ocean floor. It's been disturbed by eight expeditions, in which thousands of artefacts have been removed. Remotely operated underwater robots will be used to cut through a section of the ship's roof, through which they will extract the radio. The firm is willing to challenge the formal agreement in court in an effort to remove the item before the ship collapses in the next few years.

The future

If their legal challenge is successful, RMST will put the radio on display in Las Vegas. They believe they will get it back into working order, but there's every chance they won't lay a finger on it. Relatives of some of the passengers feel strongly that the wreckage should remain untouched. There's an argument that the wreckage is the last resting place of hundreds of people. Is preserving the wreckage as important as preserving the artefacts that are eroding slowly in the ocean? That's the question facing US and UK officials now.

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