Possible Human Remains Found in Titanic Shipwreck

Relax — it sounds more exciting than it is. But hey, it's still pretty cool. A 2004 photograph released to the public this week shows a coat and boots sunken in the mud near the Titanic's stern. Based on the way the clothing items are "laid out," there is good evidence this was once a person, says James Delgado, director of maritime heritage at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.

This is an appropriate time to note the human cost of that event, and the fact that in this special place at the bottom of the sea, evidence of the human cost, in the form of the shattered wreck, the scattered luggage, fittings and other artifacts, and the faint but unmistakable evidence that this is where people came to rest, is present.

Everyone's favorite Titanic devotee James Cameron also piped in. He told the New York Times that his team has never seen any human remains, but that the alignment of clothes does seem to suggest that there was a body there at one point.

There are a couple reasons why it's so difficult to find bodies. First — and most obviously — this happened 100 years ago, and bodies deep underwater don't suffer the elements well. Titanic scholars also note that bodies would have been scattered. A powerful storm reportedly scattered bobbing, life jacket-adorned bodies "in a line 50 miles long."

Debate rages as to whether or not there are any more well preserved bodies trapped within the ship. Some have also suggested that photos like the one most recently released are scarcely evidence of human remains, and are being used politically to protect the site.

Sunday is the centenary of the sinking, and — not coincidentally — Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, has introduced a bill that would give the Commerce Department new supervisory powers to protect the Titanic wreck site from salvagers and intrusive research.

The R.M.S. Titanic Memorial Act, which was passed in 1986, "has no teeth." That's why many, including Kerry, are pushing for stronger protection of the shipwreck site.

[Image via AP]