Seabed images show ship sunk in 1917


New high resolution images of a Guinness ship which was sunk by a German submarine off Dublin bay 94 years ago today have been published by the State’s national seabed survey.

The captain and three crew of the W.M Barkley died when the ship was torpedoed seven miles east of the Kish Bank on the night of October 12th 1917.

While the wreck was known to divers, the new three-dimension seafloor images capture the wreck lying in 56 metres of water.

The images were created from sonar data acquired onboard the Marine Institute’s research vessel RV Celtic Voyager by seabed survey team members Fabio Sacchetti of the University of Ulster and Charise McKeon of the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI).

The Infomar seabed survey programme is a joint venture between GSI and the Marine Institute, mappings thousands of kilometres of Ireland’s underwater territory which is over ten times the land size of the island.

The W. M. Barkley was the first Irish merchant ship to be “defensively armed” against attack in the first world war, when it set sail from Dublin bound for Liverpool with a cargo of “hogshead” barrels of stout on October 12th.

The torpedo which sank it was fired by German submarine UC-75, and the impact broke the ship’s back.

Survivor Thomas McGlue described how the submarine looked like a “collier” as it was so big.

“There were seven Germans in the conning tower, all looking down at us through binoculars,” Mr McGlue is recorded to have said.

“We hailed the captain and asked him to pick us up. He called us alongside and then he asked us the name of our boat, the cargo she was carrying, who the owners were and where she was registered,” he said.

“He spoke better English that we did. . . . He said we could go . . . Then he pointed out the shore lights and told us to steer for them.”

The survivors were picked up from a lifeboat by the crew of the passing collier Donnet Head, on course for Dublin, and they were “warmed by a fire, and given dry clothes and brandy” by a Guinness superintendent.

The Marine Institute says that a large sand wave had built up around the wreck, which was inspected by sports divers in 2003

As part of their research, the Infomar team visited the Guinness Storehouse exhibition where a model of the W.M.Barkley is on display and noted the similarity of the shape to the detailed seabed images. The high resolution imagery subsequently captured was recorded with a towed sidescan sonar provided by the Moore Marine Group.

Latest findings of the seabed survey will be discussed at the Infomar conference in Galway in mid-November.