herald

Tuesday 22 August 2017

No centenary dive to Lusitania will be 'Irish tragedy'

Lusitania
Lusitania
82 year old Gregg Bemis at the Port of Cork Headquarters yest. . The owner of the wreck of the Lusitania was in Cork for a special event to mark the worldwide launch of a documentary on the ill-fated vessel

A DIVE to mark the centenary of the RMS Lusitania sinking is now virtually impossible with the owner of the wreck describing the situation as "a tragedy for Ireland".

US businessman Gregg Bemis warned he cannot proceed with a planned expedition to the World War One ship off the Cork coast because of what he termed "unworkable" dive conditions imposed by the Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht.

Mr Bemis had hoped to recover major artefacts for inclusion in US and Irish museums, as well as addressing the 100-year-old mystery of what caused the liner's disastrous second explosion.

Lusitania.jpg
82 year old Gregg Bemis at the Port of Cork Headquarters yest. . The owner of the wreck of the Lusitania was in Cork for a special event to mark the worldwide launch of a documentary on the ill-fated vessel

82 year old Gregg Bemis

Cork hopes to develop a special Lusitania museum to rival that of the Titanic centre in Belfast.

The Lusitania was torpedoed by German submarine U-20 off the Cork coast on May 7, 1915 with the loss of 1,198 lives.

A single torpedo was fired by U-20 but a second explosion within the liner's hull caused it to sink in just 18 minutes resulting in catastrophic loss of life despite calm seas and good visibility.

Suspicion has surrounded munitions being carried on the liner from the US to Britain but other theories have included coal dust igniting in a bunker and a boiler exploding when exposed to icy sea water.

Mr Bemis said he finds it "absolutely incredible" that the Government continue to frustrate exploration attempts.

"The Irish people are not getting the benefits they could from the proper development of the Lusitania as a long-term source of revenue.

"The tourist value on land of the truth of the sinking and a museum properly furnished with recoveries could be of tremendous value."

However, the department insisted it has facilitated such dives.

"The Lusitania is generally recognised as one of the world's most important shipwrecks and the department's view is that the conditions attached to Mr Bemis' licence are no more onerous than is absolutely necessary to protect a wreck of this magnitude," a spokesperson said.

They added that the previous five-year licence given to Mr Bemis in 2007 facilitated both the successful Discovery Channel documentary in 2008 and the National Geographic expedition in 2011.

hnews@herald.ie

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