High resolution scans of the wreck of the RMS Lusitania and expert opinion from divers, researchers and specialists feature in a new book on the ocean liner published this week writes Lorna Siggins
National Monuments Service underwater archaeologists Fionnbarr Moore, Connie Kelleher and Karl Brady, Charise McKeon of the Geological Survey of Ireland and Ian Lawler of Bord Iascaigh Mhara are among main contributors, while expertise is also drawn from the Marine Institute and National Museum of Ireland
Images from newspapers, postcards, paintings, photographic collections and a variety of other sources show the international impact the ship’s sinking had after it was torpedoed by a German U-boat some 18km off the south Irish coast on May 7th, 1915.
The liner – then the world’s fastest – went down in 18 minutes, killing 1,197 passengers and crew. The disaster contributed to the US declaration of war on Germany two years later.
The wreck has been the focus of much investigation, research and analysis over the past century, and was protected by a State underwater heritage order in 1995.
North American businessman Gregg Bemis, who acquired the wreck of the Cunard liner in the 1960s, signed over ownership of the wreck to the Old Head of Kinsale Lusitania Museum at a ceremony at the Old Head of Kinsale in Cork in May of this year.
The “deed of gift will not become effective immediately to protect the local museum committee’s efforts to raise funds from government departments and State agencies.
At the signing, Mr Bemis said that he hoped the Old Head of Kinsale Lusitania Museum Committee would continue investigating the reasons for the second explosion which caused the liner to sink in just 18 minutes. He has long suspected that it was because the ship was carrying war munitions.
Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan and junior environment minister Sean Canney congratulated the authors when marking its publication on Thursday evening.
They said the book was “an excellent example of two government departments working in partnership to bring together expertise in archaeology, history and marine mapping while also highlighting Ireland’s leading role in seabed mapping and the promotion of our underwater cultural heritage”.
Scans by the national seabed survey’s INFOMAR project has provided imagery for how the shipwreck looks on the seafloor for the book, and the work also documents other first world war losses off the Irish coast.
“This very readable and meticulously researched book will be an essential work of reference for all interested in heritage studies and maritime affairs for many years to come,”Ms Madigan said.
RMS Lusitania - The Story of a Wreck is available from the Government Stationery Office and bookshops at €20.