Large debris comprised of ship pieces, furniture, dinnerware, and personal items were scattered over a square mile. It seems that all wood, carpet, and human remains were consumed by undersea organisms. Dr. Ballard and his team refused to bring up any artifacts from their Titanic expedition, as they deemed doing so to be grave robbing. However, international maritime law permits that artifacts must be recovered in order to establish salvage rights to a shipwreck. Since then, the Titanic has underwent a number of court cases revolving around ownership of artifacts, and the wreck site. RMS Titanic, Inc. was given rights to ownership of salvaged artifacts, and became criticized for taking items from the wreck. Approximately 6,000 artifacts were removed from the sunken Titanic, where many were put on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.
These attempts at salvaging artifacts from Titanic are allegedly causing her to decay at a faster rate than she would on her own. This is thought to be the case by scientists such as Robert Ballard, who believe that tourists landing on the deck of Titanic in submersibles are promoting a faster decay of the once unsinkable ship. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that between the extra visitors and the underwater microbes that have been eating away at Titanic’s steel since its sinking, “the hull and structure of the ship may collapse to the ocean floor within the next 50 years.” Ballard has written a book entitled Return to Titanic, published by the National Geographic Society, which includes photographs of the deteriorating promenade deck and the damage caused by submersibles landing on the ship. Titanic’s mast is nearly completely deteriorated, stripped totally of its bell and brass light, and a gash on the bow section runs through where block letters once spelled “Titanic“. Also, the brass telemotor that used to house the ship’s wooden wheel is dismantled to an almost unrecognizable point, and the crow’s nest is completely deteriorated.