A United States judge has ruled that a salvage firm can retrieve the Marconi wireless telegraph machine that broadcast distress calls from the sinking Titanic.
US District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith agreed that the telegraph is historically and culturally important and could soon be lost within the rapidly decaying wreck site.
She wrote that recovering the telegraph "will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived and those who gave their lives in the sinking".
Judge Smith is the maritime jurist who presides over Titanic salvage matters from a federal court in Norfolk, Virginia.
Her ruling modifies a previous judge's order from 20 years ago that forbids cutting into the shipwreck or detaching any part of it.
Judge Smith's order is a big victory for RMS Titanic Inc, the court-recognised salvor, or steward, of the sunken liner's artefacts.
The Belfast-built Titanic was crossing the Atlantic to New York when it hit an iceberg and sank in April 1912, killing all but about 700 of the 2,208 passengers and crew.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which represents the public's interest in the wreck site, fiercely opposes the recovery of the telegraph.
NOAA argued in court documents that it is most likely surrounded "by the mortal remains of more than 1,500 people" and should be left undisturbed.
The company said it plans to exhibit the telegraph with stories of the men who tapped out distress calls to nearby ships "until seawater was lapping at their feet".
"The brief transmissions sent among those wireless operators, bursts of information and emotion, tell the story of Titanic's desperate fate that night, the confusion, chaos, panic, futility and fear," the company said.