How Long Before the RMS TITANIC is just a pile of rust?

People like Robert Ballard have criticized people who take artifacts from sunken ships (like the Titanic). I don’t really understand such an attitude-to me, it is like picking up parts from a junkyard. Yes, the Titanic sinking was a tragedy, but it was almost a century ago, and everybody involved in it is long dead. So why not take some of th junk off the ocean flloor?
Anyway, the wreck is rusting away-how long will it be befor the wreck is just a pile of rust, on the ocean flloor?

I’ve got nothing to add but I am very interested in where this thread goes.

I would love to see more stuff from the Titanic. I’m torn with the argument of it being what’s left of people’s things and heck yeah bring it up I want to know how things are preserved!

I’ve forever been interested in Titanic since I was a child and was amazed by footage that James Cameron got when he went down. I really wish there was more to see.

I also have a thing for Urban Decay pictures that started here on the Dope after someone posted a thread about abandoned Chernobyl and how sad and lonely the place looked.

To answer the second part of your question, Wikipedia says current estimates put it at 50 years before the ship’s structure collapses completely, due largely to tourists and salvagers picking away at the wreckage and further damaging the ship.

Me, it just sorta gives me a bad vibe, kinda like digging up graves for jewelry and such, but that doesn’t seem to have any backing in maritime law.

I was recently in Vegas and went to the Titanic exhibit. I couldn’t believe some of the things recovered from the ocean floor, especially paper things like money and letters. There is also a huge piece of the ship’s hull. What a shame it would be to just leave all the artifacts there.

Of course archaeologists dig up graves for jewelry and such all the time. I suppose there’s a difference beween bringing up artifacts from the Titanic and selling them on eBay (or auctioning them off through Sotheby’s), and putting them in a museum for everyone to see and admire the beauty of Edwardian doo-dads while reflecting on the fragility of human life.

If a bus that containing rare or valuable items ran off the highway tumbled down a freeway embankment into a wooded area and the some passangers lost their lives would we leave the wreckage there? If a plane crashed into a mountain side and people perished would we leave their belongings in the wreck? I don’t see the distinction between an underwater wreck and a wreck on the surface.

It seems tacky to me to paw through the possessions of people who died so miserably and horribly, but I understand your interest and fascination.

I have always disliked the crowd noise at sporting events. One of the survivors couldn’t attend sporting events because he heard the same sound over the water that night.

How would you feel about people being free to remove sections of the USS Arizona?

To me Titanic is a gravesite, and the desecration is not worth the idle curiosity of being able to see the artifacts, many of which are only significant for having been on the boat in the first place.

As to the notion that disasters on land are always cleaned up, it depends on the location. The Air NZ flight that crashed into Mt Erebus in 1979 was not fully cleaned up - Wiki notes that “During the Antarctic summer, snow melt on the flanks of Mount Erebus continually brings debris from the crash to the surface of the snow; it is plainly visible from the air.”

Did they rescue everyone they knew about who was trapped? I recall learning that divers cut through parts of the ship to rescue trapped crewman banging on the hull.

It’s a tough one. The thing is, the Titanic sank nearly 100 years ago. All the survivors have since died, and the artefacts from the ship can tell us a lot about Edwardian maritime life.

So at this point I, personally, am OK with people salvaging artefacts from the Titanic for preservation, display, and study in Museums. I’m not OK with people looting it then flogging the salvaged items on eBay/the antiquities circuit.

What’s the real difference between the Titanic and a tomb in the Valley of Kings? Or the tomb in China with the terra cotta army in it? Or Native American gravesites?

Is it time? Or is it similarity of culture? Are we being chauvinistic if we feel ooky about archaologizing the wreck of the Titanic but not about picking over the ruins of Troy?

Not quite, two ships capsized during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the battleship Oklahoma and the target ship Utah. Men had to work on the upturned hull of both ships to get some sailors out. The Oklahoma was raised from the mud but sank while under tow to the west coast to be scrapped. The remains of the Utah are still at Pearl.

The superstructure of the Arizona was removed and scrapped. The two rear turretts were removed and put in to service as gun batteries on Oahu. However by the time the job was done, the war was over. The Arizona’s guns were fired on V. J. day.

I wonder if the descendants would have claim to what was brought up?

This is apart from the main tack of this thread, but is relevant to the OP:

I remember back in the 1970s they were sayting that the Titanic would be perfectly preserved and totally without decay, down in that very cold low-oxygen environment of the underwater North Atlantic. That was the whole point of Clive Cussler’s book (and later film) Raise the Titanic, and of that chapter in Arthur C. Clarke’s book Imperial Earth, “The Ghost of the Grand Banks”, where they did the same thing. Clarke later wrote a book with the same title. The first Ghostbusters film even included a scene where the Titanic came into port in New York and disgorged ghostly passengers.

Then the Titanic was found in 1985. Not only was it found in two pieces (there had been eyewitness accounts of the ship breaking in two, with sketches drawn and everything, but the American and British inquiries decided that the ship had sunk intact. Go figure.), making those imagined “raisings” impossible, but the ship was found to be covered in rust icicles that I don’t recall anyone predicting. After they published pictures of the much-worse-than-pristine Titanic, we didn’t hear about the wonderful preservative properties of the cold North Atlantic anymore. The film “Raise the Titanic” stopped showing up on TV, and no one, as far as I can recall, brought up the embarrassing discrepancy between prediction and reality.

I think a hundred years is a good enough time to wait before digging it up. We move graves and cemetaries, and the further back it is, and the further removed from our culture its from lets us raid things with impunity.

The part about academic study vs. private ownership can be decided based on what you think of the claim that countries place on their historical relics. The British museum had a lot of items looted or “borrowed” from countries they colonized. In recent years, some of those countries have demanded those items back. Do people think these priceless artifacts of art belong to whoever has them now or do countries like Greece or Egypt have a legitimate claim to their ancient treasures? Answer that and it should tell you if Titanic artifacts should be auctioned off on ebay.

There are a different set of laws about shipwrecks and salvage rights that aren’t relevent to historical sights discovered on land.

Titanic relics touch on two or three hot buttons, ‘historical preservation’ and the ‘sacredness’ of grave sites.

I think the first is pretty easily addressed. Leaving the site alone assures nothing will be preserved, and virtually no one will ever see any of it except on television. Within a fairly brief time, the only preserved items will be those that were recovered and brought to the surface.

As to the ‘grave site’ issue, I suppose it is toughter to achieve consensus because it is so emotionally charged and infused with the relious beliefs of survivor families and even of policy makers. Personally, I think that religious fervor should play no part in public policy, but maybe that’s just me. I’m an atheist, and bodies are not sacred and blah blah blah.

I really don’t get why peole who can get stuff that no one else can, stuff that otherwise may as well not exist, can’t go get it and use it as they will, so long as it isn’t a threat to life. I might have a problem with plutonium collectors, or collectors of high explosives, but pretty much everything else should be fair game.

It’s a grave, like the war graves of ships sunk during from the war. And only just out of living memory. We don’t go digging up century-old graves and putting the contents on display or sale. We know what the wreck looks like now, it can’t tell us much more about how it happened.

Sorry read that wrong

We tend to preserve old warships, though- there are quite a few museum ships in the world. I’m not aware of any Edwardian ocean liners still extant in more or less their original configuration, though.

Also, people do pick over battlefields from wars that aren’t that long ago. And I really can’t see a vast amount of moral difference between salvaging parts of the Titanic for Appoved Purposes and things like Time Team salvaging a WWII Spitfire in a French paddock (again, for Approved Purposes).

IIRC, one item brought up was a man’s watch. They found out that his daughter was a survivor and gave her the watch, which she kept with her until she died. She then donated it to a museum.
(I saw it when the Carnegie Science Center had the Titanic exhibit last year. In fact, my dad’s “character”*, was that guy!).

Some of the old letters, IIRC, have been able to prove family relations and such. As a historian, I think it’s a valuable resource.

*We were each given the name of a passenger on the ship, and at the end you saw if they lived or died. They had different facts about them, where they were from, what they did for a living, etc. It was really interesting.