Who owns the spoils of the Titanic?

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titanic watchI want to try to cover the more unusual property case where possible, and this story caught my eye because I have a proud family connection to the Titanic and indeed knew someone who had walked on its decks: my grandfather, Sam Hamilton, was one of the many men of Harland & Wolff in Belfast who helped build her. So I was interested to see that a case is pending in the Virginia courts over ownership of the salvaged items from the ship, and also that when the White Star Line was sold to Cunard, the Titanic was not included because it was considered as totally lost. In fact it seems strange to recall now that 25 years ago, nobody even knew where the wreck was. Now, as the Guardian notes, “A US court has claimed jurisdiction over the fate of items salvaged from a British-registered ship in international waters on the grounds that part of the wreck is now on American soil and that its rulings under maritime law would be the same in an English or other foreign court”. Mull that one over for a bit if you’re having a slow afternoon; it should have the head spinning nicely.

The picture is of the pocket watch recovered from the body of the Titanic steward Sidney Sedunary. The hands have rusted away but the rust shadow of the hour hand on the face appears to show that the watch stopped just before two o’clock: a.m., one would guess, which would probably be about right. You can see a handwritten list of some of the recovered personal effects just behind it. It is exhibited at Southampton Maritime Museum and the photograph is one of an interesting set on Flickr by R P Marks.