When is salvage desecrating graves?

This story is a month old, but relevant to an ongoing discussion about this post (please take a minute and join the debate!). On October 11, BBC News reported that a letter, written by the presidents of associations of European naval veterans and condemning ongoing Dutch salvage efforts, had been published in European newspapers. The salvors are pulling scrap metal from three WWI British cruisers sunk off the Dutch coast by a German submarine in 1914.

As Vice Admiral John McAnally, president of the Royal Naval Association and president of the International Maritime Confederation, which includes European naval veterans’ associations, told the BBC:

“We think they should be treated with due care and respect, and not regarded as a source of profitable scrap metal.” Vice Adm McAnally said there would be “a tremendous fuss” if something like this happened on land. He added: “The fact is sunken ships in international waters are under no jurisdiction. As I am aware, the government shares the same frustration as we do.”

So is this desecrating graves or legitimate salvage?




Filed under Shipwreck culture, Wrecks in the News

2 responses to “When is salvage desecrating graves?

  1. Dana Brown

    Great question Jamin- I presented this idea of “sacred space” in my class last Friday-we were discussing the Edmund Fitzgerald-take a look at the “Operation Taconite” video on YouTube -how can you designate one particular body of water and one particular shipwreck as sacred or privileged over another shipreck? Does the wreck have to involve war? Does it depend upon how many lost their lives in the wreck? Who designates “history” or “memory” –

    • Jamin Wells

      Hi Dana — Thanks for the post.
      Your class sounds fantastic! Did they reach any consensus? “Sacred space” is a great way to think through policies that affect shipwrecks and other submerged cultural resources.

      Great link — I’m going to borrow that one!

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