12 Colum.-VLA J.L. & Arts 339 (1987-1988)
Finding the Titanic: Beginning an International Salvage of Derelict Law at Sea

handle is hein.journals/cjla12 and id is 351 raw text is: Finding the Titanic: Beginning an International
Salvage of Derelict Law at Sea
by JAMES A.R. NAFZIGER*
The discovery three years ago of the Royal Mail Steamer Titanic on
the ocean floor was an exhilarating moment in the history of sci-
ence.1 What, though, is to be done with the ship and its contents, and
in what manner? Should we let it rest in peace? Allow treasure
hunters to pick and choose from its artifacts? Commission underwa-
ter archaeologists to explore and excavate the hulk in some regulated
manner? In response to these alternatives, the law books maintain a
titanic silence. We are on our own, knowing only that salvage is dif-
ferent from plunder, that freedom of the seas is different from anar-
chy of the seas, and that we need some law to guide our freedom of
the seas.
The international legal regime for protecting and promoting the
public interest in shipwrecks has been sadly neglected. Sad, too, is the
entire saga of the Titanic. It was sad when the great ship went
down-to the bottom of the sea. That was a Night to Remember.2 It
was also sad when some of the ship's contents were brought up again,
to be inspected in a ghoulish publicity stunt on television.3 That was a
night to forget.
Although the Titanic itself was far from forgotten after the disaster
* Professor of Law, Willamette University College of Law; Chairman-Elect and Former
Chairman, Law and Arts Section, Association of American Law Schools. Copyright  James
A.R. Nafziger 1988.
I. See Ballard, Epilogue for Titanic, 172 Nat'l Geog. 454 (1987); Ballard, A Long Last
Look at Titanic, 170 Nat'l Geog. 698 (1986); Oxford, Titanic: First Pyramid in the Sea, Am.
Hist. Illus., Apr. 1986, at 33; Ballard, How We Found Titanic, 168 Nat'l Geog. 696 (1985);
Aikenhead, Discovering the unsinkable Titanic, Maclean's, Sept. 16, 1985, at 52; The Sea
Gives Up a Secret, Newsweek, Sept. 16, 1985, at 44; Angier, After 73 Years, a Titanic Find,
Time, Sept. 16, 1985, at 68; Laver, The quest for the Titanic, Maclean's, July 15, 1985, at
44; Sullivan, Debris Shows Titanic Lost Her Entire Stern End, N.Y. Times, Sept. 12, 1985, at
BI 1, col. 1; Sullivan, Titanic Photos May Hold Clues to Final Hours, N.Y. Times, Sept. 6,
1985, at AI0, col. 1; N.Y. Times, Sept. 4, 1985, at AIS, col. 1; Broad, Wreckage of Titanic
Reported Discovered 12,000 Feet Down, N.Y. Times, Sept. 3, 1985, at Al, col. 1.
2. The title of Walter Lord's famous book about the tragedy, W. Lord, A Night to Re-
member (1955).
3. Return to the Titanic, syndicated television broadcast, Oct. 28, 1987 (produced by
Westgate Film Group).

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