Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Owner rejects Lusitania research

The owner of the Lusitania wreck still hopes to prove it was a secret munitions courier

The owner of the Lusitania wreck has rejected findings of a 1.5 million euro research project on why the liner sank so quickly.

US businessman Gregg Bemis has asked the Government to sanction another dive on the war grave as he struggles to gather evidence proving it was a secret munitions courier.

"I think the conclusions that the researchers came to are very weak," he said. "Interesting but very weak."

The Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat 13 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale in 1915 and sank in 18 minutes with the loss of 1,198 lives. The Lusitania sinking was a catalyst in bringing the US into the First World War, despite Germany's claim it was a legitimate military target.

Bemis, who has been trying for 40 years to ascertain if the ship had a secret military cargo which caused a second explosion, believes answers lie inside the wreck. He said: "In order to stop spinning our wheels we have to get inside the wreck - whatever it takes to get inside the ship where we can get the answers conclusively; the location of the torpedo, the second explosion, the bailers' condition."

The Department of the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs has said it sees no reason to stop Mr Bemis organising another dive expedition.

The National Geographic-sponsored project involved US and Irish divers with submersibles, an alien looking "space suit" and remotely operated vehicles like those used on the Titanic, examined the wreck. Subsequent experiments using dive data were carried out at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California to assess how the liner sank and why so many lives were lost.

A documentary, Dark Secrets of the Lusitania, produced by Los Angeles-based Creative Differences and Cork's M3 TV, showed the liner was going 21 knots. The film claims the liner may have been rapidly forced down into the ocean because it was holed towards the bow while travelling at high speed.

Mr Bemis, who has not spoken to the documentary-makers or scientists for months, is attending an event in Cork to mark the film's worldwide launch.

He said: "I don't think they have put all the relevant material in their analysis. They do not know exactly where the torpedo hit. They don't know which compartment the torpedo penetrated and exploded. That makes a huge difference. They don't know about the bulk head doors. They do not know if they were closed or open. There's no-one to know that. Those are two vital bits of knowledge."

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