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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Haunting pictures of boots and a coat at Titanic wreck site illustrate the human cost of the tragedy 100 years after ship sank


















Newly-released photos show the haunting images of Titanic victim's clothing lining the bottom of the ocean floor 100 years after the New York-bound ship sank in the North Atlantic.
A 2004 photograph, released to the public for the first time this week in an uncropped version to coincide with the disaster's centenary, shows a coat and boots in the mud at the legendary shipwreck site.
It came as the passengers of a cruise ship retracing the route of the ill-fated liner RMS Titanic held an emotional memorial service at the exact spot where the ship sank on its maiden voyage a century ago.
'These are not shoes that fell out neatly from somebody's bag right next to each other,' said James Delgado, the director of maritime heritage at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.

The way they are 'laid out' makes a 'compelling case' that it is where 'someone has come to rest,' he said.
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. They were published in Ballard's book on the expedition. Mr Delgado said the one showing a coat and boots was cropped to show only a boot.

The New York Times first reported about the photographs in Saturday editions.
Filmmaker James Cameron, who has visited the wreck 33 times, told the newspaper that he had seen 'zero human remains' during his extensive explorations of the Titanic.
'We've seen shoes. 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,' Mr Cameron said.

For Mr Delgado, who was the chief scientist on an expedition in 2010 that mapped the entire site, the difference in opinion is 'one of semantics.'
'I as an archaeologist would say those are human remains,' he said, referring to the photograph of the coat and boots specifically.
'Buried in that sediment are very likely forensic remains of that person.'
He said in an email that 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,' he said.
He said the images are also evidence that society could do a better job protecting the site.
There has been a long fight to protect the Titanic since it was rediscovered by Mr Ballard in 1985, beginning with a federal law passed by Congress aimed at creating an international agreement to transform the shipwreck into an international maritime memorial.
Senator John Kerry introduced what some observers see as stronger legislation April 1 aimed at protecting the site from 'salvage and intrusive research.'

But the luxury liner, which went down April 14, 1912 after striking an iceberg, sits in international waters, limiting what the U.S. government can do. Mr Delgado said an international treaty would need to be negotiated between Britain, Canada, France and the U.S.
At 11.40pm last night - the time the ship hit the iceberg - passengers gathered on the decks of MS Balmoral, which has been retracing the route of the doomed voyage.
After a moment of silence, three floral wreaths were cast onto the waves as the ship's whistle sounded in the dark before the names of those who lost their lives were read out by the captain. One hour and twenty minutes later, a Christian memorial service was held.
About 50 of the 1,309 passengers on board Balmoral have a direct family connection to the
sinking.
The Balmoral left Southampton last Sunday for a 12-night cruise to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the liner that hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage.
Jane Allen, from Devon, whose great-uncle perished on the Titanic, said the moment vividly reminded her of the horror of the disaster.

'All you could hear was the swell splashing against the side of the ship. You could see the white breakers stretching out to sea,' she told the BBC.
'You are in the middle of nowhere. And then you look down over the side of the ship and you realise that every man and every woman who didn't make it into a lifeboat had to make that decision, of when to jump or stay on the ship as the lights went out.'
Patricia Watts, 81, a retired teacher from Bristol, who is travelling with her husband David, 80, remembered her grandfather, George MacKie, 34, from Southampton, who was a second-class steward on board the Titanic.

Before the service she said: 'When we get to the wreck site there will be some sadness, but I think also some sense of release.
'I shall feel a sense of accomplishment that I have achieved what I set out to do. I think the service will be a very memorable occasion, slightly sad, but also for a lot of people it will be the event of the cruise.'
A service was also being held at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on the 100 anniversary
Another cruise ship, Journey, which has travelled from New York, also held a service at the site of the disaster, 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland.
In Belfast, a minute's silence also held during another poignant service.
A great, great nephew of the ship's doctor helped to unveil bronze plaques listing more than 1,500 passengers, crew and musicians who died when the liner struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912.
The boat was built in a Belfast shipyard and relatives of workmen who made and crewed the vessel were present for today's ceremony.
Jack Martin, a 12-year-old descendant of Dr John Simpson, lay a wreath and said: 'I am proud that I am keeping the memory of my ancestor alive and it keeps memories fresh.'
A letter penned on board the Titanic by the Belfast doctor to his mother is to be brought back to Belfast for exhibition.
The letter, from assistant ship surgeon Dr John Edward Simpson, was written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic and brought ashore at Cobh, County Cork. From there it was posted to his mother, Elizabeth, who lived in south Belfast.
Dr Simpson was married and had one son when he took the commission on Titanic. He had previously worked on another White Star Line ship - the Olympic.

In the letter, Dr Simpson said he was settling into his cabin well and that the accommodation on board his new vessel was larger.
Jack's father John Martin today said it meant a lot to him that the note was to be on display in Belfast.
'It is the last tangible object that we have from John Simpson, everything else that he had was lost,' he said.
'It is the last thing that we know he actually touched, that means a lot to the family.'

The service, held beside the city hall, took less than an hour and featured solo pieces by singer Brian Kennedy and reflections from actor Dan Gordon and minister the Rev Ian Gilpin.
Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O`Donnghaile, Jack Martin and a representative of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the vessel was built, laid wreaths at the new memorial.
The names of the dead, from all classes on the doomed liner, are engraved in alphabetical order on five bronze plaques.
When the Titanic sank with its three classes of passenger, a disproportionate number of victims were in third class. This is the first time all, including crew, are recognised on one memorial.

The Rev Ian Gilpin said: 'We behold the Titanic memorial, we remember all those who perished and whose names are herein inscribed - men, women and children who loved and we loved, their loss still poignantly felt by their descendants.
'In the permanence of granite, marble and stone may there be a permanence in our remembrance, in diversity, in the colour and fragrance of the flowers of the memorial, that the memorial be an acknowledgement of the diversity of humankind.'
After the wreath-laying a minute's silence was held for private reflection then the hymn Nearer My God to Thee, which was played by the band before the ship sank, rang out.
He said: 'This setting is dedicated to two people, one who died very old and one who died very young.
'Within my own experience, they mirrored the huge range of people who lost their lives as a result of the Titanic disaster.'
Dr Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck in 1985, was in Belfast for today's ceremony and delivered a memorial lecture yesterday.
A funeral pall to commemorate the disaster will also be unveiled at St Anne's Church of Ireland Cathedral, in Belfast.

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