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.
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.
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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.
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|the oceanographer responsible for finding the final resting place of the Titanic|