Mystery of the Lusitania to be explored for documentary

IRISH divers are mounting a huge expedition for a National Geographic documentary in a bid to solve the riddle of the sinking of the Lusitania off the south coast almost a century ago.

A production office is being established in Kinsale, Co Cork, from where the highly technical expedition will be coordinated next month.

Filming of the two-hour documentary, The Dark Secret of the Lusitania, is due to begin in weeks.

The documentary is co-produced by Aidan Mulcahy of M3TV, who produced From Here to Maternity, which was broadcast on RTÉ recently, with Dave Harding as executive producer.

Niall Mahoney of Musketeer Production Services, based in Clonakilty, is providing production support.

Millionaire US businessman Gregg Bemis, 83, who owns the wreck, will travel to Ireland to take part.

In 1915, the Lusitania was off the Cork coast, en route from New York to Liverpool, when it was struck by a torpedo fired from a German U-boat.

The explosion triggered a mystery secondary explosion which ripped its hull apart.

The ship sank in less than 18 minutes, killing 1,198 of the 1,959 people on board, including 39 children.

In 1993, Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic, said he believed dust in the ship’s coal bunkers was thrown into the air by the torpedo impact and ignited, causing the second explosion.

But Bemis has always claimed the ship’s secret ammunitions cargo caused the second explosion.

Next month’s expedition team will be based on board the Granuaile vessel, which has been chartered for an eight-day trip. It will remain anchored above the wreck site for the duration of the dive.

Mr Mahoney has been working on the logistics for the expedition, which he said requires a lot of specialist equipment including atmospheric diving suits (Newtsuit), which will give divers more time to examine the wreck.

The technical diving team will be led by Irish diver Eoin McGarry, with most of the seafaring crew and almost all of the television crew and support coming from Ireland.

Five different cameras will film the wreck.

“We will have HD cameras on the submarine, on the Newtsuit and the diving team will take down a camera,” McGarry said.

“The [remotely operated vehicle] will have a camera as well. And then we will have a pole camera, which will dip inside the ship once it opens up.”

* The Dark Secrets of The Lusitania will be broadcast on National Geographic in 2012.

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