Any ship wreck that results in the mindless slaughter of 1,198 innocent citizens would seem to cry out for a thorough investigation.
When the Lusitania was sunk in 1915 by one torpedo, followed some 15 seconds later by a monstrous internal explosion which sank the ship in a mere 18 minutes, the technology for analysis of the event was non-existent.
Now 100 years later, we have life support systems for 92 metres below the surface along with all the other technologies as well as brute strength necessary to properly evaluate the circumstances of the disaster.
There will always be people and governments who prefer to let “sleeping dogs lie” and prefer not to know the truth concerning significant historical events. I’m not one of them. I believe transparency and honesty in world matters is the preferable way to go. It is hard to learn from the unknown.
Ever since becoming an owner over 45 years ago, the Lusitania has been a prime target of mine for proper study. But there is only so much you can resolve from document research and eventually in situ research has to be undertaken.
The last 20 years, as time, financing, and pertinent technology have become available, there has been increasing reason to resolve the only important mystery of the Lusitania’s sinking, ie the cause of the second explosion. When ownership of the ship was achieved in 1967, she lay in International waters. Regardless of the overall rationale for same, the International Law of the Sea was changed in 1987 to extend national control of local waters to 12 nautical miles rather than the centuries old protocol of three nautical miles.
Since the Lusitania lies at approximately 11.5 nautical miles from Ireland’s shore, the country of Ireland acquired through no effort on its part, the right to control all activities in these waters surrounding the ship wreck.
In 1995, then Minister Higgins placed a “Cultural Heritage Order” on this property, the only such formal CHO on any of the 18,000 catalogued ships lying in Irish waters, and the saga of impeded exploration began.
For the past 20 years there has been a constant obstructionism enacted against legitimate efforts to research the second explosion and to recover artifacts in a responsible and respectful manner with which to honour the victims and commemorate a major historical event.
This has necessitated three trips before the Irish Court System which has cost the Irish Taxpayers over $1,000,000 in legal fees alone, losing in all three cases. The Underwater Archaeological Unit of the Department of Monuments is a collection of academics who though certainly well meaning are well beyond their depth in this project in both the literal and figurative sense.
Their mantra has been that “a wreck of this importance must be protected”, but they fail to state from what it is to be protected. They certainly are not protecting it from the turbulent and corrosive environment in which it lies.
They aren’t protecting it from the fishermen’s nets which become entangled and tear apart the remains as prohibited by law.
Yes it is protected from its owner’s efforts at research and recovery which in most cases are the very efforts which this department should be supporting and undertaking themselves based on their academic, professional, and proscribed duties.
The people of Ireland have been denied the opportunity to lead the world in a major forensic exploration that would clarify significant history.
Instead of blocking these efforts that would bring clarity to history, how much better it would be to provide positive leadership in underwater investigation rather than 20 years of negativity towards a sensitive effort in an area of apparent great interest to many.
As each of us in our own way at this time pay our respects to those unfortunate souls who failed to survive this disaster, I would hope for a new enlightenment and true sense of cooperation and even participation of the authorities who have blocked for years our efforts on behalf of Ireland and the victims of Lusitania’s demise.
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