The photo is of debris on the ocean floor where the ship lies, specifically a pair of leather boots and parts of a coat, and other detritus from the ship. It is being considered by some to be a photo of something not previously captured by camera - the remains of someone who was on the Titanic.
“I as an archaeologist would say that those are human remains,” director of maritime heritage at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA)
, James Delgado, told the Associated Press
. “Buried in that sediment are very likely forensic remains of that person."
Photo released on Titanic Centenary
In the photograph the boots lie together, suggesting, Delgado says, they did not fall out of a trunk but were there on the feet of one of the souls who came to rest there. Some of the debris around the boots has been identified as what remains of a coat and Delgado believes that the sediment around the boots contains the remains of the human who wore them. The scene is part of the debris field that surrounds the two major sections of the Titanic.
It was a 2004 NOAA expedition, lead by Robert Ballard, the ocean explorer who found the Titanic on the first of September in 1985, that took the photo. Ballard continues to ask other scientists who visit the site to refrain from plundering her but he's been ignored. Titanic Inc
. of Atlanta has taken thousands of artifacts from the ship's resting place and has toured them and continues to exhibit them in cities all over the world.
3D map of Titanic debris site
An expedition taken by the Titanic Inc. and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst. in the fall of 2010 took extensive photos of the debris field
, which is thought to be 3 miles across by five miles, or 5 kilometers by 8. That expedition is making a high-tech 3D map of the site that will eventually lead to creating virtual tours of the shipwreck.
As for this photo from the Ballard expedition of 8 years ago, released by the NOAA, Delgado finds it to be of great significance. "The images speak to the power of that tragic and powerful scene, 2 1/2 miles below, and to its resilience as an undersea museum, as well as its fragility," he said.