So the Flier’s been found, now what?

Posted by Rebekah
May 03 2010

One question I’ve been asked as I’ve been talking about this project to various people is: now that the Flier has been found, what will happen to her?  Will there be more expeditions, will she be salvaged so the families can have their loved ones back?  Is there a danger of someone claiming the wreck and taking her apart for parts?  How about tourism diving?

The laws of the sea are many and complex and what can or cannot be done sometimes depends on whether a wreck lies in territorial waters or international waters, whether the ship can be identified as belonging to a certain nation, or was a warship or a freighter.

In many ways, Flier’s fate is clear and clean cut.  As a warship, she is considered by many countries to be the sovereign property and  territory of the country under whose flag she sailed, in perpetuity.  Since she was an American warship, that means the ocean floor she sits on and all of her remains are the property of the United States of America, and cannot be visited, salvaged or have anything done to her in any way, without express permission by the United States Navy.

The US Navy, like many others around the world, considers the ocean to be a perfectly honorable place for a sailor to be buried, so Flier is also considered a tomb.  Any further dives (and I’d imagine there might be a few more to thoroughly document the site) has to respect that above all.  To try to remove items off the Flier, or do exploratory dives, some say even penetrating the opening on the Flier with ROVs to see the interior, would be the equivalent of visiting Arlington with a shovel and digging up random graves for curiosity’s sake.

The Navy does allow salvage of some of their ships, but not if any remains are known to be aboard, so Flier will never be salvaged.

As for tourism diving, Flier is already, from what I understand, at a depth deep enough that only some of the most highly trained divers in the world can reach her.  Furthermore, the exact coordinates of the wreck is likely to never come into public knowledge.  The Navy has not released the exact coordinates to the Lagarto, Grunion and Wahoo, and they are unlikely to release these coordinates either, further protecting her from casual examination.

So what will happen to the Flier?  She’ll remain where she sits today, a monument to her men.

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