It’s been a little over 100 years since the RMS Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean, yet there are still many questions that mystify people until this day. One of the most pressing questions is whether the sheer amount of shoes and boots buried in the mud is evidence of bodies at the titanic wreck site.
Countless documentaries, films, and one very famous Hollywood epic have been made about the voyage and ultimate demise of the Titanic and too many of her passengers.
The crew had been warned six times of oncoming icebergs. When the Titanic hit the ice and sank in 1912, just over 30% of its 2,223 passengers and crew survived. Those passengers in Third Class were particularly unlucky as less than a quarter of them made it out of this historic disaster alive.
But were any of the bodies of those who met their watery graves discovered? And are any bodies still left to be seen all these years later?
Titanic does not have skeletons. Why is that?
A lot of bodies were never found, but some say there are remains around the ship. What could’ve happened? Titanic experts say a powerful storm the night of the wreck dispersed life-jacketed passengers over a 50-mile area, so the bodies are likely to have floated all over the sea floor.
In the depths of the sea
Immediately following the disaster, 340 victims were discovered floating in their life jackets, killed by exposure to freezing temperatures. It is estimated that the temperature of the Atlantic ocean at that time of year – it was early Spring – would have been about 28F (-2C). At these temperatures, those who didn’t make it into a lifeboat or aboard another surface to keep warm and dry would only have lived a maximum of 15 to 45 minutes before their heart stopped functioning.
But what happened to the other victims? Nearly 1,500 passengers and crew perished, leaving 1,160 not found at the surface of the ocean in the following days unaccounted for.
A final resting place
Some experts argue that a violent storm the night of the disaster scattered the Titanic underwater bodies of those in lifejackets in a huge radius around the wreck site, meaning many bodies would likely have come to rest nowhere near the ship’s wreckage.
Meanwhile, hundreds were trapped within the ship’s interior as the Titanic sank to the bottom of the ocean. For those Titanic underwater bodies, it would depend how much they were exposed to oxygenated seawater. Less exposure, for example, for those enclosed in spaces with no active currents flowing through, would have slowed the decomposition of bodies significantly. Some could potentially still be seen today, although the length of time and the nature of the harsh, acidic seawater would make this highly unlikely.
Are there Underwater Bodies at the Wreck Site?
Photos released in 2004 show boots and a coat on the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by sand. The way these came to rest would suggest that someone still wore them as they landed on the ocean floor. Is there a way to verify for sure if there is something there? Can a submersible armed with a shovel do a little digging, and the better question is, should that area be explored? The prospect raises many potential ethical concerns If the Titanic Wreck is essentially considered an underwater gravesite. In many ways, perhaps this is as close as we’ll ever get to seeing the tragic passengers of the Titanic in their final resting place.
As The Rime of the Ancient Mariner reads: “Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing, Beloved from pole to pole! To Mary Queen the praise be given! She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven, that slid into my soul.”
Perhaps this is precisely what happened and the many passengers and crew who slipped away gently as the freezing waters overwhelmed them simply fell asleep as the great Atlantic ocean engulfed their bodies. We may never fully discover what happened to the over 1,100 people who were not rescued or found floating in lifejackets and Hollywood may forever create fantastic stories about the last moments of those many people.
Should There Be a Search For Bodies?
The RMS Titanic has been on the bottom of the North Atlantic for almost 102 years. It is difficult to say how much longer the grand lady will be around because time is not on her side, and she is slowly rusting away. A big piece of Titanic has already been brought to the surface to preserve her, but with her legacy slowly disappearing, should the areas around the shoes be searched for bodies, or should the grand old lady indeed be left alone?
The discovery of bodies buried in the mud would mean that families would get their closure, but would it also open a can of worms? Many people feel that anything historical should be treated with the utmost respect, including shipwrecks like the USS Arizona and the RMS Titanic. Until someone goes down there and does a powerful enough scan or even lightly digs in the mud to see what is under those shoes, the question of whether there are bodies at the wreck site will never be answered.
While so many of us are still fascinated by the tragedy of the RMS Titanic and its ill-fated crew and passengers, we can hope that in those many years since those who found their final resting place around that infamous ship did so in some peace.