Battleship Bismarck
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Wargrave - Ethical and Legal Considerations
A few words about ship wrecks, classified as wargraves.
 
Ethical and Legal Considerations Legalities of the Bismarck Find
According to international laws, a warship remains the property of its country of origin. It is considered a war grave. This means that, unlike non war shipwrecks, the Bismarck is not fair game to treasure hunters and salvors. Dr. Ballard has stated that he will not return to the Bismarck without the consent of the German people and he will honour the wishes of the German government that he will not go inside the wreck. The Germans also have no desire to recover anything from the wreck. They choose to leave their sunken ships at the bottom as a memorial.
 
Ethical Considerations
Finding the ship
There are some ethical considerations about even finding a ship such as the Bismarck. As Dr. Ballard writes, "Whenever you uncover a piece of history you run the risk of stirring up emotions. The more recent the history, the more powerful those emotions are likely to be." There are many survivors from the Bismarck that are still alive. Most had a positive reaction to the discovery. There are some survivors, both from the German and British sides that believe that the Bismarck should not have even been found. They believe that the site should be treated as a war grave and left alone.

Removing items
Though there is a law against it, the removal of items from the Bismarck site still holds ethical considerations. The site is not guarded, so there is no real way to prevent a wealthy treasure hunter from going down and picking up a few souvenirs. The ship is a war grave and should be respected as that. Though many people would love to hold on to a piece of this history, and would probably pay a pretty penny for it, they do not have a right to it.

Excavation of wrecks
Dr. Ballard is of the mind that recent wrecks should be left alone out of respect for those who died on the ship, the relatives of the casualties, and the survivors. Ballard feels that older wrecks should only be explored by "qualified archaeologists intent on broadening historical ethics and knowledge". The excavation of a recent wreck could open some pretty serious emotional wounds to those connected to it, but who is going to complain if a wrecked ship from the 1600's is excavated? We do not completely agree with the idea that only archaeologists should explore these wrecks. We don't think that just anybody should remove whatever they please. Anything that is removed should be properly taken care of and catalogued. There is nothing wrong with someone who has an interest in the history going down to examine the site.


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