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A century after its wreck, the Titanic remains in the spotlight.
This time, there is an ongoing legal battle that divides those who want to retrieve the ship’s telegraph and those who prefer that everything on the bottom of the ocean be left alone for good.
This artifact is considered key to the tragedy – but to rescue it, it would be necessary to search an underwater area where there may still be human remains of the 1,500 people who were shipwrecked with the transatlantic.
The controversy has arisen since an American company, which has already removed several items from the ocean liner, announced new plans.
RMS Titanic Inc wants to rescue the Marconi wireless telegraph that issued distress signals on the night of the shipwreck on April 15, 1912. These calls saved the lives of nearly 700 people who managed to escape on lifeboats.
The expedition would take place in the middle of 2021 and would use an underwater robot.
However, the United States government opposes these plans, claiming that such an operation would violate federal law and would not respect an international agreement, also involving the United Kingdom, which recognizes the wreck as a memorial to the dead.
Virginia State Courts originally authorized the expedition, saying the retrieval of the telegraph “would contribute to the legacy left by the incalculable loss of the Titanic, those who survived and those who gave their lives”.
A rescue consultant added that human bodies are unlikely to remain in the wreckage.
But the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which represents the public interest in the case, says the expedition is at risk of disturbing human remains that could be inside the Titanic’s hull.
“The internal spaces of the hull, especially the bow section intact, even if flooded during the sinking process may not be exposed to the current external environment”, he says.
“These types of isolated environments create a condition in which constant pressure, low temperatures, no flow and anoxic water levels (where dissolved oxygen is depleted) have been known to preserve organic matter for centuries.”
In Morse code: ‘Come now’
The Titanic left Southampton, England, for New York, in the United States. On the night of April 14, 1912, at 11:40 pm, the ship hit an iceberg. The ocean liner began to flood with thousands of tons of freezing water.
Thomas Andrews, who was on board, designed the ship. After inspecting the damage caused by the collision, he confirmed to the captain that they were going to sink.
At 12:15 am on April 15, the Marconi system began to issue distress signals, wirelessly activating an entire network of ship operators and stations on land that were frantically communicating.
They used the Morse code, a telegraphic communication system that forms words, numbers and other symbols using points, lines and spaces.
“Come now. We hit an iceberg,” warned Titanic communications operator Jack Phillips to another ship, the Carpathia.
“We hit an iceberg and sank in the bow,” wrote the Titanic’s crew to Frankfurt, a German ship.
Jack Phillips transmitted even more reports.
“We are sending passengers in small boats. Women and children in boats. They cannot take much more. Losing energy.”
Another of them said: “This is the Titanic … flooded engine room”.
The operators continued to exchange messages when the boats started to leave and the men said goodbye to their wives and children.
Jack Phillips did not survive the disaster. He remained in his post even after the captain released him from service. For this reason, his heroism has already been extolled several times in narrations about the tragedy.
Titanic’s messages caused consternation and confusion on other vessels.
At 2:10 am, the power went out and the communication system was turned off. The bow was fully submerged and the stern was tilted.
Around 2:20 am, the ship split in two and the two halves began to descend to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Less than two hours after the wreck, Carpathia arrived in the area and rescued 700 survivors who managed to escape in life rafts – and which only had capacity for half the people on board.
Mortal remains began to be found in 1985 about 740 kilometers from Newfoundland, Canada.
The two halves of the ship are 4,000 meters below sea level, at the exact spot where they sank a century ago.
Since 1987, the RMS Titanic has recovered more than 5,500 artifacts, including silver, porcelain and gold coins. In addition, the company led eight research expeditions. One of these, recently, found that some of the underwater artifacts are rapidly deteriorating.
Warning that time is running out, Bretton Hunchack, president of RMS Titanic Inc, argued that his company’s new project could “recover an incredible piece of history”.
“While many objects on the Titanic have the ability to dazzle generations about the lives of their passengers, only one artifact contains the story of the survivors,” said Hunchack.
“The Marconi system is a forgotten hero, responsible for countless generations of families that only exist today because communication came to their aid on behalf of their ancestors”.
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