Matthew Stohr salvages bottles of vodka from an eddy of containers that settled off the west end of a bridge into Fort Myers Beach on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 after Hurricane Ian devastated the area. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
This photo and caption from a gallery at the Tampa Bay Times brought a variety of thoughts to my mind.
First, the terminology. "Salvaging", from an Old French word meaning "to save" is commonly used for maritime rescues of ships, crews, and cargo - but can be used to refer to making good use of damaged material. I think a better term for the scene depicted here is scavenging - to look through refuse or abandoned items for useful material.
Then the thought that there must be a ton of this going on in Florida these days. The scene above appears to be of flotsam originating in a liquor store, but the beaches (and streets and properties) of Florida must be covered with all sorts of items washed from fragmented homes and businesses.
What are the rules (written or unwritten) covering this? Is it up for grabs - first come first serve? Most material would not be "abandoned" in the traditional sense of owners relinquishing title to it - but in a practical sense owners are unlikely to be reunited with lost items.
The debris on the streets will include jewelry, fine art, money, collectibles and the state is awash in people who have lost much of what they previously owned. Are they morally justified to scavenge seeking some compensation for their losses?