WRECK (AS. exile, misery. Icel. rek, reki, anything drifted or driven ashore. from AS. wreean. Icel. reka, GOO. uyikans to perse cute, OHG. rehhan, Ger. riiehen, to revenge; con nected with Lith. rorgas, affliction, OChurch Slay. rraga, enemy, persecutor, Lat. vrgcre, to press, Gk. einetv, eirqein. to repel. Skt.
to turn aside). A vessel which has been stranded or so badly injured as to be helpless. The num ber of wrecks which occur annually is very large, amounting to about 4 per cent. of all ships in actual use. This has led to the development of a special form of industry called 'wrecking.' The means of raising sunken vessels and removing stranded ones are various. They may be lifted with chains; by submerging hollow caissons, lash ing them to the hull and then pumping them out; by closing all openings in the vessel's hull and pumping the water out; by inserting air bags in the hull and inflating them ; or by a combina tion of these methods or of similar ones. Strand ed wrecks have been removed in many dif ferent ways: by digging a canal to them from deep water: by building launching ways under neath; by cutting them in two (where caught on the rocks) and removing the parts separately and reconnecting them; and of course by haul ing them into deep water by means of lines leading to tugs or anchors.
In law, wreck is defined as parts of vessels or their cargoes cast upon the land by the sea. By
the common law, fragments of vessels or other property floating upon the sea do not come under this classification: they are known as derelict property, and belong to the jurisdietion of the admiralty courts. By the statute of 17 and 18 Victoria all jetsam, flotsam, and /iyan, which were formerly classed as derelict property, were included under the head of wreck. Under the ancient English law all wreck belonged to the Crown. but by the statute above referred to the owner may claim his property upon the payment of the proper salvage. In the United states the disposition of wrecks belongs to the several States. The owner of a wrecked vessel may abandon his property and is not obliged to re move it. even though it obstruct navigable waters. nor is he liable for damage occasioned thereby. Federal statutes provide that stealing from wrecks, obstructing the escape of a crew from a wrecked vessel, extinguishing lights or set ting up misleading lights in order to cause wrecks. shall be punished as felony. In the law of marine insura me. a vessel beeemes a wreck and may he abandoned to the insurers when she becomes so disabled as to be unnavigable. See SALVAGE.