WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) -- Some U.S. officials say they strongly suspect the wreck of the Titanic holds intact human remains and should be protected as an underwater grave site.
The analysis of a growing number of images has yet to spy any definite bones or other remains; however, there is concern that unexplored compartments could yield skeletons that have been protected from decomposition by cold water and a lack of oxygen.
"I would not be surprised if highly preserved bodies were found in the engine room," said Robert Ballard, the underwater explorer who discovered the long-lost wreck in 1985. "That was deep inside the ship."
The possibility led to the introduction of a bill in Congress that would give the U.S. Commerce Department the authority to restrict the removal of artifacts from the wreck.
The New York Times said the idea of treating the Titanic as a grave site has divided underwater explorers, some of whom see the bill as a legal tactic to block the recovery of items from the sea floor.
The Times reported Sunday that Titanic scholars said most of the 1,500 passengers and crew killed in the 1912 disaster probably made it off the ship but died of exposure in the cold water and drifted away from the scene. But others point to the large amount of clothing and footwear on the bottom as a sign many went down with the ship.
"I know that lots landed on the bottom, because there are so many shoes," Ballard said.
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