The company with sole rights to salvage artifacts from the RMS Titanic has gone to court to gain permission to carry out a “surgical removal and retrieval” of the Marconi radio equipment on the ship, a Washington Post article reports. The Titanic sank in 1912 on its maiden voyage after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic. As the radio room filled with water, radio operator Jack Phillips transmitted, “Come at once. We have struck a berg. It’s a CQD, old man,” and other frantic messages for help, using the spark transmitter on board. CQD was ultimately replaced with SOS — which Phillips also used — as the universal distress call. The passenger liner RMS Carpathia responded and rescued 705 of the passengers.
As might be expected, the deteriorating Marconi equipment is in poor shape after more than a century under water. The undersea retrieval would mark the first time an artifact was collected from within the Titanic, which many believe should remain undisturbed as the final resting place of some 1,500 victims of the maritime disaster, including Phillips. The wreck sits on the ocean floor some 2 1/2 miles beneath the surface, remaining undiscovered until 1985.
A just-signed treaty between the UK and the US grants both countries authority to allow or deny access to the wreck and to remove items found outside the vessel. “This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives,” British Transport and Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani said in a statement.
The request to enter the rapidly disintegrating wreck was filed in US District Court in Eastern Virginia by RMS Titanic, Inc. of Atlanta, which said that it hopes to restore the Titanic radio transmitter to operating condition, if it is allowed to go forward.
The company plans to use a manned submarine to reach the wreck and then deploy a remotely controlled sub that would perforate the hull and retrieve the radio equipment.
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