Main Menu
Join Undercurrent on Facebook

The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975 | |
For Divers since 1975
The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
"Best of the Web: scuba tips no other
source dares to publish" -- Forbes
March 2006 Vol. 32, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
What's this?

Massachusetts Wreck Plunderer Returns Artifacts

from the March, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Wreck divers have forever claimed finders/keepers when it comes to retrieving artifacts from sunken ships. However, federal and state governments are more frequently claiming the artifacts, saying that they belong in the public domain and divers who find them donít own them.

In 1935, during fog, the anchored 630-ton Lightship Nantucket LV-117 was sideswiped by the Olympic, a British ocean liner and Titanicís sister ship. The lightship sank in minutes, taking four crew members with her. For 64 years, the LV-117 lay hidden in 200 feet of water 50 miles south of Nantucket Island, Mass., until an exploration team plundered the ship and desecrated a gravesite.

Eric Takakjian of Fairhaven, Mass., a former Coast Guardsman and avid wreck diver, spent years researching the ship, eventually using side-scan sonar to find it. On July 18, 1998, Takakjian and a team of divers made their first dive on the ship, and during a dozen more dives he removed the shipís binnacle, 1,200-pound signal bell, the helm, portholes, telegraph, and signal light. Then he presented lectures, pictures and artifacts at diving symposiums and shows throughout New England.

Nearly a year after he found the ship and began removing artifacts, Takakjian applied to the Coast Guard to explore it. But, they irrevocably denied him permission, unaware of Takajianís plunderings.

In 2004, members of the U.S. Coast Guard Lightship Sailors Association, dedicated to the preservation of lightship history, learned of Takakjian and his artifacts and notified the Coast Guard. Larry R. Ryan, president of the Association, said ďA grave ship should be treated the same as any other grave, six feet deep or 200 feet deep, it makes no difference. We were appalled by the diversí actions. I think only a true sailor can appreciate this.Ē

Coast Guard special agent Michael R. Burnett collected evidence, conducted interviews, and located the stolen artifacts. The U.S. Department of Justice and Coast Guard sued to recover them last March. While Takakjian and his colleagues admitted to their plundering, their lawyer claimed they had the right to retain the property. Then the Justice Department threatened criminal prosecution. Their mood quickly changed. They relinquished their claims on the recovered property, and promised to never dive again on the Nantucket. The artifacts will soon be on public display.

Burnett says itís important for Coast Guard history to preserve the shipís legacy and to protect the final resting place of those who died in the service of their country. ďPeople should not exploit wrecks for personal gain, profit and notoriety. They should face penalties, whether civil or criminal.Ē

I want to get all the stories! Tell me how I can become an Undercurrent Online Member and get online access to all the articles of Undercurrent as well as thousands of first hand reports on dive operations world-wide

Find in  

| Home | Online Members Area | My Account | Login | Join |
| Travel Index | Dive Resort & Liveaboard Reviews | Featured Reports | Recent Issues | Back Issues |
| Dive Gear Index | Health/Safety Index | Environment & Misc. Index | Seasonal Planner | Blogs | Free Articles | Book Picks | News |
| Special Offers | RSS | FAQ | About Us | Contact Us | Links |

Copyright © 1996-2024 Undercurrent (
3020 Bridgeway, Ste 102, Sausalito, Ca 94965
All rights reserved.