A telegraph machine from the RMS Lusitania wreckage, off the coast of County Cork, has been raised, 101 years after the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat causing the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew.
Eoin McGarry, from Dungarvan, County Waterford, working under the license of the Ministry for Heritage discovered the machine. He has been diving at the site for 15 years, more than any other diver. He completed this operation having previously brought up the pedestal for the bridge telegraph machine, early this year. McGarry, along with the wreck’s owner, Greg Bemis, a US multimillionaire venture capitalist, plan to recover the ship’s bridge telegraph machine in 2017.
On May 7 1915, just one year after the outbreak of World War I the Lusitania, a British ocean liner en route from New York to Liverpool, was struck and within 18 minutes had sank. The tragedy killed 1,198 souls, including 120 Americans, among them the richest men in the United States, Alfred Vanderbilt.
The Lusitania was a neutral passenger ship and not a legitimate wartime target although the Germans claimed the ship was carrying arms. It is said that although the US did not enter the fight of World War I for two years after the tragic it was the Lusitania which heralded their entry.
Among the dead were 140 Irish people including the art collector Sir Hugh Lane, James McDermott, the ship’s surgeon, his assistant, Dr Joseph Garry, and the composer Thomas O’Brien Butler.
The passenger ship went down just 11 miles off the coast of Cork and the locals worked tirelessly to rescue remains from the water and deal with the massive tragedy. On May 10 1915 a mass funeral for over 145 victims of the tragedy took place in the Old Church Cemetery, in Cobh. Thousands turned out to pay their final respects to the victims.
All diving operations involving the 101-year-old wreck require a license from the Ministry under the National Monuments Act. The Lusitania is also covered by an underwater heritage order, because of its international and historical importance.
Minister Heather Humphreys, speaking about the newly recovered telegraph machine, said it “will now be conserved by Mr Bemis, who hopes to place the artefacts recovered from the Lusitania on display locally, which, of course, would be of great benefit to the people of Kinsale.”
Owner of the wreck, Bemis, also congratulated the diver, McGarry, and his team “for their diligence and success in very difficult recovery efforts, made all the more difficult by weather, tides, and lack of visibility at 90-plus meters.”
Here’s a full documentary on the sinking of the RMS Lusitania: