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Lusitania's Story Continues 100 Years On - But Time Is Running Out

9th May 2015
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Lusitania's Story Continues 100 Years On - But Time Is Running Out

#Lusitania - This week saw the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania marked with commemorative events in Cork Harbour, including a ceremony in Cobh led by President Michael D Higgins and a cruise call by the Cunard Line's Queen Victoria as part of its 'Lusitania Remembered' voyage.

New sonar imagery showing the full extent of the wreck site off Kinsale was also revealed this week, displaying its current condition on the sea floor in greater detail than ever.

A hundred years after it slipped below the waves, the ill-fated liner is only "beginning to reveal its wounds, scars and perhaps its secrets, and may continue to do so for many years to come," according to Government officials.

One man who's long hoped for such secrets to be revealed is the wreck's owner Gregg Bemis, who sent a personal tribute to be delivered instead of attending the official commemoration.

The multi-millionaire American businessman is currently at odds with the State over what he describes as "spiteful" the strict licensing rules imposed on his long-planned return dive to the wreck.

Bemis intends to disprove the findings of National Geographic's 2012 documentary on its so-called 'dark secrets', in his belief that there was more to the second explosion that sealed its fate than a damaged boiler.

His story is the subject of a detailed profile in the latest Fortune magazine. And more recently he wrote a scathing piece in The Irish Times, highlighting the "double standard" in the lack of public expenditure on researching shipwrecks in relatively shallow waters such as the Lusitania and the Estonia, which sank in the Baltic in 1994, compared to the multiple millions spent over many years on plane crash sites to determine their cause.

Bemis had more to say to The Irish Times' Lorna Siggins about his deep research into the Lusitania controversy, and whether it really did carry a clandestine arms and munitions shipment which may have made it the target for the German U-boat that blasted its hull.

While the owner did not travel to Cork Harbour himself, diver Eoin McGarry went in his stead to place Bemis' tribute plaque with the names of the hundreds who died in the tragedy, as well as a single red rose, near the remains of the ship's bridge.

McGarry – who has descended to the wreck more than anyone else – willingly paid the harsh decompression penalties to return to what's regarded as the Everest of diving, according to fellow diver Tim Carey.

"The first glimpse of the vessel is a huge feeling of exhilaration," Carey writes in the Irish Independent, adding that "swimming around the wreck is a very touching experience and is like transcending time".

However, he also warns that "diving the wreck over a ten-year period has shown me one inescapable fact - the wreck is constantly corroding and collapsing further and is suffering a lot of damage from fishing nets."

Which means that the preservation of its remaining artefacts, if not the revelation of its deepest secrets, must be secured before it's too late.

Published in Cork Harbour
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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It’s one of the largest natural harbours in the world – and those living near Cork Harbour insist that it’s also one of the most interesting.

This was the last port of call for the most famous liner in history, the Titanic, but it has been transformed into a centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

The harbour has been a working port and a strategic defensive hub for centuries, and it has been one of Ireland's major employment hubs since the early 1900s. Traditional heavy industries have waned since the late 20th century, with the likes of the closure of Irish Steel in Haulbowline and shipbuilding at Verolme. It still has major and strategic significance in energy generation, shipping and refining.

Giraffe wander along its shores, from which tens of thousands of men and women left Ireland, most of them never to return. The harbour is home to the oldest yacht club in the world, and to the Irish Navy. 

This deep waterway has also become a vital cog in the Irish economy. 

 

‘Afloat.ie's Cork Harbour page’ is not a history page, nor is it a news focus. It’s simply an exploration of this famous waterway, its colour and its characters.

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