Remote controlled cameras from the Government's survey ship, Mansal 18, entered the wreck yesterday and filmed inside. Marine Accident Investigation Board staff believe that they have seen human remains, but want to have the pictures enhanced and analysed by pathologists before judging what they reveal, said a spokesman for the Department of Environment and Transport.
The find may finally explain what happened to the Gaul. In 1974 the trawler sank 70 miles off the northern coast of Norway in appalling weather conditions. Despite being fitted with state-of-the-art safety features it did not send any distress signals. Thirty-six men were lost and there were no survivors.
Families of the crew have suspected that the trawler was on a spying operation for British intelligence and that the Soviets might have even seized the crew.
However, pictures sent back earlier this week by the Mansal 18's suggest that the Gaul was probably sunk by the weather. The videos showed that two hatches and a door were open on the sunken trawler.
After years of campaigning by the families, the deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, ordered a survey ship to examine the wreck. The Mansal 18 arrived last Sunday.
Mr Prescott sent a message to the families: "If it is confirmed that the vessel contains the remains of your loved ones, I hope they can now be left to rest in peace in keeping with the tradition which looks on the sea as a noble resting place."