Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Doomed WWI liner 'Lusitania' yields artefacts

Artefacts from the torpedoed 'Lusitania' were due to be brought to shore last night as a US dive team wrapped up an expedition to unravel one of the great mysteries of World War One.

The artefacts from the liner, which lies 16km south of the Old Head of Kinsale, in Co Cork, will be handed over to the State and could feature in a new museum exhibition on the doomed ship.

The dive team, organised by the National Geographic Society, has been conducting the biggest exploration of the wreck off the Cork coast in almost two decades.

The expedition is being filmed for a TV programme called 'The Dark Secret' which will be broadcast on the National Geographic documentary channel next year.

The 'National Geographic' magazine will also carry a special report on the wreck and her secrets.

The sinking of the liner in 1915 by the German submarine U-20 is believed to have pushed the US closer to involvement in the war.

However, there were conflicting claims that the civilian liner was carrying munitions bound for Britain as the 'Lusitania' inexplicably sank in a matter of minutes.

Some 1,198 of the 1,959 passengers on board were killed even though sea conditions were quite calm.

US divers, assisted by experienced Irish divers, have been operating on the wreck and conducting the most ambitious interior examination of the ship ever.

Production official Aidan Mulcahy said viewers would hopefully, for the first time, be able to get a detailed look at the interior of the line.

"What we are hoping to do is basically cut open the side of the 'Lusitania' and send a remotely operated vehicle inside the vessel to explore the interior compartments and hopefully find out why she sank in less than 20 minutes after the torpedo hit," he said recently.

The Cunard Liner was hit by a single torpedo fired from a U-boat while off the Cork coast on May 7, 1915.

The ship was unable to launch most of its life-boats as it sank so quickly.

It has been suggested munitions on board may have been a factor in the speed with which the liner sank, with German claims that just a single torpedo was fired by the U-boat subsequently verified.

Another theory is that coal dust in the liner's bunkers may have exploded in the seconds after the torpedo impact.

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