State to receive items recovered from 'Lusitania'


A NUMBER of important artefacts recovered from the wreck of the Lusitania near Kinsale last August, are to be donated to the State, it has been announced in Tralee, where the items are undergoing archaeological conservation and maintenance.

The agreement brings to an end legal battles between American millionaire Gregg Bemis, owner of the wreck since 1968, and various arms of the State. Mr Bemis’s rights to the hull and to carry out research and dives have been established, as have the State’s heritage rights to wrecks in its waters.

The ship sank in May 1915 with the loss of 1,198 people from 1,959 on board. It was alongside the coast of Cork nearing the end of its journey from New York to Liverpool. It was 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale when the U-boat fired a single torpedo, sinking the liner in 18 minutes.

The items were recovered at the end of the National Geographic-sponsored dive, in conjunction with Mr Bemis. The primary focus was research and an attempt to establish what had caused a catastrophic second explosion after the ship had been struck by a single torpedo. The focus was on whether that second explosion was caused by clandestine munitions carried by the passenger ship. The international outrage which followed the Lusitania’s sinking is widely accepted as catapulting the US into the first World War.

The research team included Irish and English archaeologists led by Laurence Dunne Archaeology of Tralee. The agreement announced yesterday on these important artefacts marked a new “collaborative” approach, Laurence Dunne said, and would form an important part of commemorating the centenary of the vessel’s sinking.

Discussions over a number of months, initiated by Mr Dunne between Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan and Mr Bemis also included the National Monuments Service and the National Museum.

Those items to be handed to the State include a bronze telemotor, part of the steering mechanism, two first-class portholes with intricate filigree work and two circular portholes, as well as what is known as a “telltale”, a directional indicator. It is not clear yet if other items are to follow.

The Lusitania, owned by the Cunard line, was the fastest ship of its day. Among the dead were the art collector Sir Hugh Lane, prompting theories about the loss of important art works.

The official passenger list did not include three stowaways.