What a stroke of fortune! You are walking along the beach one day when you discover enough wood to build yourself a house or two. So, is scavenging an honourable tradition, your right, or will the long arm of the law eventually tap you on the shoulder?
Can you think of any famous shipwrecks (Spanish Armada, Titanic)? Why do ships run aground or sink (storms or bad steering drive them on to rocks, into shallow water, on to sandbanks; overturn in heavy seas; hit icebergs, another ship; holed by gunfire or torpedo in wartime)? Why do people risk their lives going to sea (their job, for example, fishing, lifeboat crew; people seeking adventure and excitement)? Imagine you are a diver entering a ship which sank hundreds of years ago,. What would you expect to find?
What are scavengers (people or animals picking up whatever they can find of value, goods or food)? Can you think of examples among animals (birds building nests, seagulls on rubbish tips)? When is it legal and illegal (OK if owners genuinely don't mind, or even invite people to remove things; theft if they want their goods)? If you find some treasure, is it yours to keep (no, it has to be handed in; it may legally belong to the landowner, though it could become yours if it was abandoned centuries ago and declared "treasure trove" (trove is taken from the French word trouve, meaning found)? What forms of human scavenging are acceptable (collecting seashells, bottles, paper and old clothes for recycling; buying things cheaply at a car boot sale; taking used packaging to school to make 3-D models)?
Another long tradition in some coastal areas is smuggling; who are smugglers and what do they do (bring in goods illegally to avoid tax)? Have you read any stories about smugglers, or been to places where smugglers lived (for example, a smugglers' inn or cove)? What do modern smugglers import (drugs, liquor, cigarettes, animals, jewellery, goods with high tax)? Who tracks them down (police, customs and excise officers)? What happens if they are caught (heavy fines or long jail sentences for serious offences)?
(a) You are walking along the beach with friends when you discover an ancient wooden chest sticking out of the sand; what is in it, what do you do, what is the outcome? (b) Describe how you buy all the wood in the picture legally and what you do with it (build, sell at a profit?).
Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University
If a ship runs aground should anyone be allowed to salvage the contents?
There is a long tradition in coastal areas of locals collecting things that wash up on shore. Storm debris simply litters the coastline and the beaches, so it is as well someone is willing to clear it away. The goods may, in any case, be damaged and the insurance company will reimburse the owners.
Storms are not the fault of the company whose goods are lost, so taking them without the owner's permission is, legally, theft. If the ship's contents are damaged then people who want them should agree to buy at a reduced price. Insurance claims simply have to be paid for by other customers paying higher premiums.