Monday, March 12, 2007

Bring Up or Leave Down?

On the flight to and from Orlando last week I read Wahoo: The Patrols of America's Most Famous WW2 Submarine. I think I have read it before, many years ago but it was worth reading again. It was written by Dick O'Kane, one of the higher ups in the ship right below the famous skipper Dudley "Mush" Morton. O'Kane served on missions one through five, Morton commanded missions three through seven. The book does not have a happy ending as most WW2 buffs know. The Wahoo was sunk on her seventh mission, either from a failed torpedo explosion, or an all out air and sea attack from the Japanese, or a combination of both. She was sunk in La Perouse Strait, and she was found in 2006.

From that last link,

The Navy has no plans to salvage or enter the Wahoo wreck. Naval tradition has long held that the sea is a fitting final resting place for Sailors lost at sea. The Sunken Military Craft Act protects military wrecks, such as Wahoo, from unauthorized disturbance.
Here is an extremely cool site showing the photos of the Wahoo, in her grave several hundred feet down. You can click on the periscope handles to move forward a page or back. Very interesting stuff to a history and WW2 fanatic like myself.

While in Orlando I had the opportunity to go to a pretty interesting tourist trap, a Titanic museum. A more proper name for this place would be "museum about a ship called the Titanic featuring artifacts from her sister ships and many reproductions". It had a lot of interesting photos and artifacts, like I said, from her sister ship "Olympic". There were a lot of films to be seen there as well. I think it was $20 - well worth it for a decent educational couple of hours.

I remembered that just last week I had watched a show about the Titanic and the finding of her in that watery grave 12,000 feet below in the cold North Atlantic. The documentary said that the person who found the Titanic originally stated that he did not wish to bring up anything out of respect to those who perished in her. Later, others (mostly millionaires looking for treasure) said "screw that" and started picking the Titanic clean of anything they could get their hands on. There are many places you can view Titanic articles, made all the more popular by the success of the recent movie. The Museum of Science and Industry has an exhibition going on right now. If Carl started out now on the CTA he may get there by football season.

The internal debate I have is the following: when is it OK to start bringing up artifacts off these sunken boats to let people see them? It is ever OK?

I am positive that bodies were disturbed when the Titanic began to be picked clean. How could there be any doubt that Roman Galleys, Spanish Galleons and other boats have not had bodies disturbed during archaeological dives or treasure scavenging?

The Navy, as evidenced by the quote above says "no way Jose" on the diving of their ships buried at sea. Damn I would so love to know how the Wahoo got sunk. But I don't have a relative in there either.

Personally, I am going to be cremated - I don't think that there is any real value to anybody to keep my body around after the organs are donated. Along these lines, I would love to see dives on these old military ships buried at sea to determine what happened. But different people hold different beliefs than myself about the bodies of their loved ones and I respect that too.

I guess it is one of those things where there really isn't a right answer.


jti said...

Those are some great underwater pics on that site. I've spent hours on the internets researching just that type of thing. My favs are WWII relics from the Pacific Theater. Amazing to see that half submerged tanks and gun placements are still "keeping watch" over 60 years later...

Dan from Madison said...

Before I die I will go on one of those tours of the South Pacific that go to the Canal, Bougainville, New Guinea, the whole works. They take about two or three weeks. There are still a lot of wrecked ships, planes and tanks on many of the atolls over there that I have to see before I die.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, the best I have read in some time. Well thought out, and interesting question.

Dan from Madison said...

Thanks anon.

Frank Borger said...

Arg, growing up as a teenager we could visit the U505 at the Museum, then go down the road and visit the Silversides at the armory. And then the city threw the sub out.

Anyone interested can read the mission logs for the wahoo, (except the last one of course) on the net. One good site is

jti said...

Really sounds like you love this kind of stuff the way I do, Dan...