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Looters already haul off a prize

With the bodies of the dead still trapped inside the hull, looters have lost no time in making off with Costa Concordia’s ship’s bell. Evading 24-hour surveillance by the Italian Coast Guard and complicated laser systems measuring tiny shifts in the ship’s position, thieves removed the bell probably 2 weeks ago. The news was reported this morning on the website See the full story here.

I have always loved ship’s bells and am particularly disheartened by this despicable act. So I thumbed through a book at the library, “The Ship’s Bell: Its History and Romance,” by Karl Wade, to see how salvaged bells tend to get used. Not only did I find that there are a great many people who share a love of the bell and all that it symbolizes, but I also discovered something about The Mariners’ Museum that I didn’t know. It turns out that we may have the oldest ship’s bell in America, salvaged from the bottom of the York River in 1934 off a British warship sunk in 1781. Collections Management dates this bell as early as 1750.

I am glad that so many of these beautiful bells end up in churches, museums, and educational institutions. Babies were baptized under them, lives were saved by their voices when disaster struck a ship. Even after a ship goes down, one can sometimes hear the pealing of the ship’s bell underwater, as it is rocked by ocean currents. To loot the bell of a ship in which people have died is akin to robbing a grave and is in my view just as ghastly.

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