The Property vs. Preservation Debate: Lusitania & Endeavour

Published by Kathy Abbass on Sunday, 11th November 2018 - 12:50PM


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The original debate was held on April 12, 2018. and the video was premiered on December 1, 2018. 

Presenters first discussed the legal/ethical positions. Michael J. Daly, of Pierce Atwood in Providence, reviewed the legal principles governing commercial salvage operations. John D. Broadwater from Yorktown, Virginia, a retired NOAA archaeologist, discussed the laws related to the protection of shipwrecks and other submerged cultural materials. Presenters for the "case studies" of the Lusitania and the Endeavour explained how these two shipwrecks used the same salvage laws for different purposes. Venture capitalist F. Gregg Bemis, Jr. of Santa Fe, New Mexico, secured the rights to the Lusitania under salvage law, but when the Irish offshore territorial boundaries expanded to include this ship, that government used preservation laws to limit access to his property, generating a protracted legal wrangle. The British transports scuttled in Newport Harbor during the American Revolution were privately owned and therefore eligible for a salvage award, too. When the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) determined that Capt. Cook's Endeavour Bark was among those ships, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, (then RI Attorney General), took a salvage award for, and then title to, the Newport fleet to preclude other claims. RIMAP's D. K. (Kathy) Abbass, moderated the event, and presented the final summary. The video features statements of how salvage and preservation laws have different purposes, but how they can work together to achieve shared goals. 

RIMAP has also published transcripts of these remarks. Please contact us at for further information about this RIMAP publication..

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