Power Struggle Surfaces on Claims to Shipwrecks

By John Aloysius Farrell The Boston Globe | THE JOURNAL RECORD, January 9, 1998 | Go to article overview

Power Struggle Surfaces on Claims to Shipwrecks


John Aloysius Farrell The Boston Globe, THE JOURNAL RECORD


WASHINGTON -- As new technology spurs underwater exploration of storied shipwrecks like Blackbeard's pirate galleon, the Titanic and the Lusitania, a battle for control of sunken artifacts has erupted between commercial treasure hunters and marine archeologists.

Congress had hoped to quiet the warring interests by passing the Abandoned Shipwreck Act in 1987, giving coastal states like Massachusetts, with about 3,000 known shipwrecks offshore, the right to claim title to the ships and their treasure in the name of historic preservation.

But discoverers of the shipwrecked Brother Jonathan, which sank in 1865 in California's worst maritime disaster, have won the right in federal court to privately salvage the lost steamship. The Supreme Court is now considering the case, and the ruling, expected by June, could restore order or bring further turmoil to the sunken treasure business. The lines in the dispute are clearly drawn. Archeologists contend commercial divers destroy historic wrecks in the search for loot. Independent treasure hunters, however, say priceless artifacts will be lost to time and the ravages of the sea if the states take away commercial incentives to find and explore sunken ships. "I have been through hell and high water in dealing with a real overzealous, vicious group of archeologists who defy common sense," said Barry Clifford, who discovered the pirate ship Whydah off Cape Cod, Mass., in 1982, reflecting upon a lifetime of treasure hunting. If he were starting out today, said Clifford, he would choose another vocation. But James Delgado, the former head of the federal Maritime Preservation Program, said he is haunted by the fear that artifacts from the Brother Jonathan and other historic wrecks will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. "If the decision in the Brother Jonathan case by the lower courts is allowed to stand, it will ... set the stage for an increased assault on historic shipwrecks," said Delgado, who now runs the Vancouver Maritime Museum in Vancouver, British Columbia. "Why should the law be different just because something is wet?" Such hidden treasures would be protected by stringent historic preservation statutes if found on land. But federal admiralty law historically has favored private salvage firms because of the risks and difficulties involved. Clifford and his partners, for example, were able to claim full title to the Whydah, though they have worked in partnership with state officials and archeologists. The Brother Jonathan, a three-masted, double side-wheeled paddle steamer left San Francisco on July 28, 1865, bound for British Columbia with 250 passengers and crew. After unloading cargo in Crescent City, Calif., the plodding 220-foot-long ship ran into a fierce storm and high seas. It struck an uncharted, submerged rock -- thereafter known as Jonathan Rock -- and sank within sight of land in 250 feet of water.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Power Struggle Surfaces on Claims to Shipwrecks
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.