London: The oceanographer who discovered Titanic has said that enthusiasts must stop plundering the wrecked ship.
Robert Ballard, who found the ship nearly 27 years ago, has said new measures should be introduced for anyone visiting the site, to prevent them pillaging for souvenirs.
In a public lecture, he told visitors to the Titanic visitor centre in Belfast that parts of the crows nest and a light fixture had already been removed.
“You don’t stick your finger in the Mona Lisa when you go to the Louvre,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
According to the Independent, Ballard also showed photographs of rust on the ship, which had been affected by the increasing number of robotic submarines visiting it.
The ship, which lies at a depth of 3,800m on the bottom of the ocean, is now subject to a Unesco convention as a site of cultural heritage, which aims to stop the illegal pillaging.
The convention, which has come into force after the 100th anniversary of the sinking, “puts teeth” into the protection of the wreck, Ballard said.
The 69-year-old oceanographer said he believed technology could now be used to help guard the site, with deep-sea robots making it “easy” for educational images to be beamed across the world.
“The question is do you do through the museums of the deep to appreciate the museum or to plunder?
“I am interested in protecting human history in the ocean that is at peril. We can put cops and sentries on the Titanic,” he said.
Thousands of objects have already been taken from Titanic to the surface legally, as well as by those taking unauthorised trips and seeking to plunder it.
Just two years after the wreck was discovered in international waters, 340 nautical miles from Canada, a company claimed salvage rights.