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Displaying items by tag: Lusitania

US businessman Gregg Bemis, owner of the Lusitania which was torpedoed off Co Cork with the loss of 1,200 lives during the first World War, has died in New Mexico.

Mr Bemis was due to mark his 92nd birthday next week.

Deep-sea diver Eoin McGarry, who was a close friend, said he had never seen anything like his persistence and tenacity.

“He always wanted to find out what caused the second explosion on the Lusitania, and the mantle we have to take on is to find that out,” Mr McGarry said.

“We hope to get an expedition going for a forensic examination of the bow area. But the captain of the ship has gone – he was like a father figure to me.”

In 2016, Mr McGarry retrieved one of the telegraph machines from the ship under license from the Department of Heritage.

Bemis, who dove on the wreck at the of 76, acquired joint ownership of the Lusitania in the 1960s. He then bought it outright for one US dollar.

He fought a long legal battle to verify his ownership, involving court hearings in three countries including Ireland.

The former venture capitalist was determined to find the cause of a second internal explosion on the ship which occurred after the German torpedo of May 7th, 1915, and which is believed to have accelerated its sinking in just 18 minutes with devastating loss of life.

There were at least 90 Irish men, women and children among 1,197 passengers and crew who died. Among them was art collector Sir Hugh Lane, James McDermott, the ship’s surgeon, and his assistant, Dr Joseph Garry, and the composer Thomas O’Brien Butler.

Also on board was one of the richest men in the North America at the time, Alfred Vanderbilt.

An underwater heritage order was placed on the Lusitania wreck in 1995 by the then arts minister, Michael D Higgins, as he considered it a grave which required both protection and “regulated” and “transparent” investigation.

Bemis supported several expeditions – including a National Geographic dive in which he descended to view the wreck from a submersible.

However, six years ago he said that onerous licensing conditions were frustrating attempts to establish the cause of the second explosion. The Department of Culture denied the claim.

He also said he believed Ireland was not deriving benefits the tourism value of the Lusitania as a long term source of revenue, both in funding a museum for its artefacts and encouraging visiting divers.

During a diving expedition in 2008, Mr McGarry found four million rounds of ammunition on board. They were classified as small arms ammunition which was permitted to be carried on board.

Mr McGarry believes the cause of the second explosion may never be resolved.

Last year, Mr Bemis signed over ownership of the wreck to the Old Head of Kinsale Lusitania Museum at a ceremony at the Old Head of Kinsale which is the nearest point of land to where the ship went down on May 7th, 1915.

“I’ve come to realise that, at almost 91 years old there is only so much more I can do to further this project and I think because of the Lusitania’s part in history, it’s very important that it be done properly and we get all the artefacts we can from the wreck to put in the museum planned for here,” he said.

Mr Bemis explained the deed of gift would not become effective immediately, given that it might impact on the local museum committee’s ability to raise Government and State funds He said it would be held in escrow and activated at short notice in the event of his death or when the museum is built.

Con Hayes of the Old Head of Kinsale Museum Committee said Bemis was a remarkable man and his generous gesture to transfer ownership of the wreck would "not be forgotten".

“Gregg has been ill for a number of years but he was quite determined to come to Ireland last year to formally hand over the ownership of wreck to us and that’s something for which we will be eternally grateful,” said Mr Hayes, recalling how he had first made contact with him in 2011.

It was the sinking of the Lusitania that influenced the US government's decision to declare war on Germany in 1917.

New imagery of how the ship looks on the seafloor is reproduced in a recently published book - RMS Lusitania- the story of a wreck, by Fionnbarr Moore, Connie Kelleher and Karl Brady of the National Monuments Service, Charise McKeon of the Geological Survey of Ireland and Ian Lawler of Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

Published in Historic Boats
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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.

Luisitania wreckNew sonar imagery of the RMS Lusitania

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.

Published in Diving
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A woman is appealing for help to bring her fiancé back home to Canada after he was paralysed following a diving incident at the Lusitania wreck last month.

As previously reported on, a man was airlifted to hospital and later transferred to University Hospital Galway’s specialist decompression unit after he took ill during a diving expedition at the wreck site off the Old Head of Kinsale.

It’s since emerged that the casualty, James (Kim) Martin, was left with near total paralysis in the aftermath of the incident on Thursday 8 August.

According to The Irish Times, the experienced diver had been due to marry Kristin Chadwick the week after his trip to Ireland. Chadwick first learned of what happened to her fiancé via an online news search.

Within days she was at his bedside and remained in Galway while Martin recovered from a number of serious complications. He is now able to communicate and has “limited use of his upper body” but needs a respirator to breathe.

Now Chadwick is trying to raise $100,000 in a crowdfunding campaign to being her partner back to Canada by air ambulance for long-term rehab.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Diving
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Courtmacsherry RNLI was among the search and rescue agencies who responded yesterday morning (Thursday 8 August) to reports that a man had taken ill during a diving expedition to the wreck of the Lusitania.

As reported by The Irish Times, it is suspected that the diver, one of a group of eight, developed the bends as he returned to the surface from the wreck site some 18km off the Old Head of Kinsale.

The Naval Service vessel LÉ George Bernard Shaw diverted from patrol in the area and sent a team to bring the casualty on board, from where he was airlifted to hospital.

Later the casualty was transferred from Cork University Hospital to University Hospital Galway, which has a decompression unit.

As the emergency operation wound down, Courtmacsherry RNLI’s all-weather Trent class lifeboat Frederick Stormy Cockburn received another Mayday call, to a 30ft yacht in difficulty off the Seven Heads coast.

The lifeboat was at the scene within 20 minutes and proceeded to tow the stricken vessel back to the safe surrounds of Courtmacsherry Pier.

Commenting on the morning’s callouts, Courtmacsherry lifeboat operations manager Brian O'Dwyer praised all the crew for their professionalism and fast response.

Elsewhere, shortly after 1pm, Crosshaven lifeboat volunteers were called to a medical evaluation from Spike Island in Cork Harbour.

According to Crosshaven RNLI, crew member Aoife Dinan performed casualty care until paramedics arrived, having been brought to the Island by the Port of Cork RIB.

The Irish Community Air Ambulance also landed on the island along with Crosshaven Coast Guard.

“Very sadly, the male casualty, who was a foreign visitor, was declared deceased,” said press officer Jon Mathers. “Our sympathies are with the family of the deceased man; may he rest in peace.”

Published in Cork Harbour

The US businessman owner of the Lusitania wreck off the West Cork coast has gifted it to a local heritage group planning a new museum around the historic vessel, as the Irish Examiner reports.

Gregg Bemis signed over the wreck to the operators of the Lusitania Museum and Old Head Signal Tower in Kinsale, in the hopes of continued efforts to discover what really happened when it was sunk by a German U-boat 104 years ago yesterday, 7 May.

The multi-millionaire had owned the Lusitania since the 1960s and used his own fortune to fund numerous exploratory dives over the years.

Many of these have been fruitful in recovering artefacts, such as two of the ship’s telegraphs in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

But the 91-year-old businessman believes the question of what caused a mysterious second explosion on the ship when it went down still needs to be solved — contrary to allegations made in a National Geographic documentary in 2012.

Bemis has also been at odds with the State over its strict licensing rules for wreck dives — and the Lusitania’s new owners hope the Government will relax these rules to encourage their own planned research and recovery efforts.

It’s intended that many items recovered from the Lusitania will take pride of place in a ‘living museum’ in the area dedicated to the ocean liner’s remarkable story.

Dungarvan diver Eoin McCarry, a friend of Bemis, said: “It’s like as if the Lusitania is coming home.”

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes
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#Lusitania - A deck chair recovered from the wreck of the Lusitania by Blasket islanders and restored a century later is planned for public display, as RTÉ News reports.

Master craftsman Pat Broderick says he was able to save most of the original timber from the beech frame, and replaced the rattan seat with the same material woven in identical fashion.

Broderick’s handiwork will shortly be put on display by the Office of Public Works, either at the Blasket Centre in Dunquin or in the restored home of Tomás Ó Criomhthain on Great Blasket Island.

The deckchair was taken from the water with other flotsam and jetsam by islanders on Great Blasket not long after the Lusitania was torpedoed off Kinsale in May 1915.

It was used as a fireside chair for almost four decades before the island was evacuated in 1953, when it went into storage before the Blasket Centre received it as a donation.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Island News
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A ceremony took place at the Old Head of Kinsale in Cork at the weekend to commemorate the sinking of the Lusitania and its 1,191 victims 103 years ago.

The ocean liner was torpedoed at 2.10pm on 7 May 1915 during WWI, 18km off the Old Head.

A memorial perforated picture installation was unveiled on the headland by Fred Graepel, whose company donated the installation.

lusitania ceremony kinsale1

Local historian Paddy O'Sullivan gave a talk on the Lusitania, while a lament was also played.

lusitania ceremony kinsale1

The installation is located adjacent to a restored lookout tower and a Lusitania memorial on the headland.

Chairman of the Lusitania Museum, JJ Hayes, described seeing steamships passing by the headland and the cliffs when he was a boy.

lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1lusitania ceremony kinsale1

Published in Historic Boats
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#RNLI - For more than 100 years, the crews of Courtmacsherry Harbour Lifeboat Station have laid a wreath over the site of RMS Lusitania.

In Courtmacsherry Bay, the old British Royal Navy watch tower of the Seven Heads peninsula is the closest point of land to the Lusitania tragedy at 11.2 nautical miles.

Courtmacsherry Harbour is also home to a one of the earliest established lifeboat stations in Ireland, founded in 1825, and at the time of the Lusitania tragedy located at Barry’s Point in Courtmacsherry.

On 7 May 1915, the Lusitania, a British Cunard line ocean liner, was on passage from New York when she was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat south of Courtmacsherry Bay, with the loss of 1,201 lives.

The Courtmacsherry RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew was alerted to the tragedy and due to the fine weather that day, the sails were of no use, so they rowed the Kezia Gwilt lifeboat to the scene of the sinking.

The sea was strewn with the dead, some with lifebelts on, others holding on to pieces of rafts. The volunteers of the Kezia Gwilt spent six hours on scene, taking bodies from the water.

In 2015, the present lifeboat crew and residents of Courtmacsherry village, many of whom are related to the original 1915 lifeboat crew who were called to service, staged a re-enactment of that heroic row by the then lifeboat crew to the site of the Lusitania.

Since that ill-fated day in 1915, the crew of Courtmacsherry RNLI annually pay tribute to those lost by laying a wreath over the wreck of RMS Lusitania.

If anyone would like the crew to lay a wreath on their behalf for those lost on the Lusitania, they can bring it to Courtmacsherry Harbour Lifeboat Station before 12.30pm on Monday 7 May.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Lusitania - The main ship’s telegraph from the Lusitania has been recovered from the wreck site off West Cork.

Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys made the announcement last Wednesday (26 July) as the telegraph was undergoing preliminary conservation on shore by the National Monuments Service.

Earlier in the week, divers licensed by the minister — and with the consent of the wreck’s owner, American millionaire Gregg Bemis — had spotted the device feared lost after a botched retrieval operation last year.

“I am happy to confirm that this important piece of the Lusitania has now been recovered from the wreck off the West Cork coast,” said Minister Humphreys. “I understand that the telegraph is undamaged and in excellent condition.”

Bemis intends to place the telegraph, along with its pedestal successfully recovered last ear, on display in a local museum along with a number of other artefacts from the wreck.

Questions were raised by an Oireachtas committee in March after the telegraph was lost from a burst lift bag during an unsupervised dive off the Old Head of Kinsale last summer.

Another telegraph from the ill-fated liner, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat during the First World War, was recovered later in 2016.

Published in Diving
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#Lusitania - Questions have been raised by an Oireactas committee after a telegraph from the Lusitania wreck was lost during an unsupervised dive last summer.

According to RTÉ News, no archaeologist was present on the diving expedition on 13 July 2016 during which the telegraph sank to the ocean floor from a burst lift bag.

The committee heard from Terry Allen of the National Monuments Service that the incident would have occurred even with supervision by an archaeologist.

But committee chair Peadar Tóibín said Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys has “questions to answer” as the decision to allow the dive to one of Ireland’s most important wreck sites unsupervised was itself a “significant break” from protocol.

A subsequent dive led by Eoin McGarry on behalf of the Lusitania’s owner Gregg Bemis recovered a separate telegraph machine from its bridge, as previously reported on

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