April 16, 2012

The Titanic's sinking left a graveyard - or did it? (9 PICS)

A boot on the seabed lies near what is thought to be a coat in this 2004 image. “There are people inside,” said James P. Delgado, who works for the agency that released the image. James Cameron, the moviemaker, said that in his 33 visits to the wreck, “I’ve seen zero human remains.”
US GOVERNMENT officials, who have long struggled to assert protective authority over the wreck of the Titanic, say the site may harbour many undiscovered corpses and should be accorded the respect of a graveyard and shielded from looters.

''There are people inside,'' said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors the wreck.

The bold assertions are dividing Titanic experts. The most experienced divers say they doubt that bodies lie intact in unexplored compartments.

''I've seen zero human remains,'' James Cameron, the moviemaker and explorer, who has visited the wreck 33 times and extensively probed its interior, said in an interview.

''We've seen clothing,'' he added. ''We've seen shoes. We've seen pairs of shoes, which would strongly suggest there was a body there at one point. But we've never seen any human remains.''

Democratic senator John Kerry has introduced a bill that would give the Commerce Department new supervisory powers to protect the Titanic.

Experts Split on Possibility of Remains at Titanic Site
In 1986, Congress passed a protective law known as the RMS Titanic Memorial Act, but officials at the ocean agency and elsewhere agree that it has no teeth. In 2004, the US, France, Canada and Britain signed a draft treaty for better safeguards, but it requires legislative support - which the Kerry bill would provide.

While seeking to enhance their custodial role, US officials are now pressing the question of the missing dead. After the Titanic sank, 340 bodies were recovered. Of the roughly 1500 people killed in the disaster, about 1160 bodies remain lost.

Sceptics say officials are exaggerating scanty evidence in an effort to expand their powers.

''It's a legal tactic,'' said David Concannon, a maritime lawyer who has dived to the Titanic's resting place and advised the Explorers Club.

Titanic Hole An opening on thestarboard side of the ship's hull

Other Titanic experts - including Robert Ballard, a discoverer of the wreck who has long advocated its protection - said it was possible and perhaps likely that human remains lie in unexplored compartments.

''I would not be surprised if highly preserved bodies were found in the engine room,'' he said. ''That was deep inside the ship.'' Asked how many bodies the broken hull of the Titanic might hold, Mr Ballard replied: ''Dozens. Hundreds starts to feel uncomfortable. I know that lots landed on the bottom, because there are so many shoes.''

The Titanic child shoes have become a symbol of the tragic
the oceanographer responsible for finding the final resting place of the Titanic