Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Titanic wreckage finally safe from underwater theft

The "unsinkable" four-funnelled ship the SS Titanic. Part of the White Star Line, Titanic sank off Newfoundland on her maiden voyage to the USA after striking an iceberg (14-15/4/1912). Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum

One hundred years after it sank below the Atlantic’s cold waves, the wreck of the Titanic is set to finally be protected from underwater grave robbers.

The famous liner which lies some 3,784m below the water’s surface, 375 miles off the coast of Canada, will now be protected by the United Nations’ cultural agency Unesco.

The ‘2001 Unesco Convention on the protection of Underwater Heritage’ will safeguard the wreck.

The convention intends to prevent any unauthorised lifts or unethical exploration. It has the power to seize any illicitly recovered artefacts and close ports to vessels undertaking exploration that is not done according to the principles of it.

The convention only applies to remains that have been submerged for 100 years, so previously the Titanic did not qualify.

As from April 16, 2012 the Titanic wreck will have total protection.

Previously American companies claimed they had rights to it, but now barriers have been put in place as the ship has also been registered as being in international waters, meaning no single country can claim the site.

Private dives will start this summer at a cost of £30,000 a seat and Unesco has ordered that no items are to be lifted from the wreck.

Irina Bokova, director general of Unesco, welcomed the news. She said: “The sinking of the Titanic is anchored in the memory of humanity and I am pleased that this site can now be protected by the Unesco Convention.

“But there are thousands of other shipwrecks that need safeguarding as well.

“They is also the memory of human tragedy that should be treated with respect.

“We do not tolerate the plundering of cultural sites on land, and the same should be true for our sunken heritage.”

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This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage and the loss of 1,517 lives, after the Titanic hit an iceberg crossing the Atlantic. The wreckage site, which covers five miles by three, was discovered in 1985 by a Franco-American expedition. It has been visited hundreds of times, with some accidental damage having been caused by submersibles.

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