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FLOTSAM: Flotsam & Jetsam

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342842.  Fri May 23, 2008 8:02 am Reply with quote

Question: So today’s theme is flotsam and jetsam, but can you tell me the difference between the two?

Forfeit: Flotsam is floating wreckage and jetsam is washed up on the shore.

Answer: Flotsam is wreckage that floats while jetsam has been deliberately jetissoned from a ship; Flotsam & Jetsam was also the name of a 1920s double-act

Flotsam is wreckage from a ship found floating on the surface of the sea while jetsam are goods deliberately thrown overboard by a ship in peril. A third category, lagan, are goods lying on the bottom of the sea, or marked by a buoy, with the intention of recovery while “derelict” completes the set, this is cargo that has been abandoned at sea without any hope of recovery.

These four categories make up what the 1995 Merchant Shipping Act calls a wreck. If you find anything at sea, you must report it to a designated “Receiver of the Wreck” who works within the Coastguard Agency. The receiver will try to find the owner who might offer a reward. Unclaimed wreckage belongs to the crown, though in most cases, the finder will be allowed to keep the items as a salvage award. If the item is more than 100 years old, it becomes “historic wreck” in which case it is usually offered to museums close to the site of the wreck. Should you find something on the beach and not follow the correct procedures you can be fined up to £2500, waive your right to a salvage reward, and have to pay the owner twice the good's value.

Treasure found on land is governed by the Treasure Act of 1997; you must report it to your local police station within 14 days. From there it will be passed onto the coroner. The coroner decides what to do, but you’ll probably get a reward if it a museum wants it, or you will probably get to keep it if not.

Flotsam and Jetsam were a British musical comedy act of the 1920s and 30s. BC Hilliam (Mr Flotsam) wrote songs and played the piano, while Malcolm McEachern (Mr Jetsam) sang in one of the deepest bass voices on record. They sang mildly satirical comic songs with rapid-fire delivery and are sometimes considered a precursor of Flanders and Swann. After the death of Jetsam, Flotsam created an act called “Flotsam’s Follies” which was, in 1949, responsible for giving Tony Hancock his first big break.

Further Sources:

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Floating debris


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