Could muddy boots and a coat discovered among the Titanic's wreckage mean that there are still human remains inside the ship on the ocean floor?

Newspaper reports claim that pictorial evidence suggests human remains may still be on board the Titanic, over one hundred years after it sank.

There is no doubt that many lives were lost when the Titanic sank, and it is natural to wonder what happened to the bodies of those who perished. Some people believe that there are still human remains on the wreck of the Titanic, while others argue that the bodies were all recovered in the weeks and months following the disaster.

The Associated Press, quoted by the New York Post, claims that a 2004 photograph, released to the public in 2012 for the first time to coincide with the disaster’s centenary, shows "a coat and boots in the mud at the legendary shipwreck site."

James Delgado, the director of maritime heritage at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, told The Associated Press: “These are not shoes that fell out neatly from somebody’s bag right next to each other.  “The way they are laid out makes a compelling case that it is where “someone has come to rest.”

The report states that the image, along with two others showing pairs of boots resting next to each other, were taken during an expedition led by NOAA and famed Titanic finder Robert Ballard in 2004.

The images were first published in Ballard’s book on the expedition, but Delgado says the one showing a coat and boots was cropped to show only a boot.

However, filmmaker James Cameron disagrees with the new theory.

Cameron has visited the wreck 33 times and said he has seen "zero human remains" during his extensive explorations of the Titanic.

"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,” said Cameron.

Delgado, the chief scientist on an expedition in 2010 that mapped the entire site, says the difference in opinion is "one of semantics."

He added: “I, as an archaeologist, would say those are human remains. Buried in that sediment are very likely forensic remains of that person.

“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.

"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.

"The images are also evidence that society could do a better job of protecting the site.”

While it is certainly possible that there are still human remains on the wreck of the Titanic, the evidence suggests that all of the bodies were recovered in the weeks and months following the disaster. While the sinking of the Titanic is a tragedy that will never be forgotten, it is important to remember and honor the lives that were lost, rather than speculate about what may or may not still be on the wreck.

* Originally published in 2012. Updated in April 2024.