Exploring the RMS Lusitania

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Exploring the RMS Lusitania

Post  MercedesD99 on Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:04 pm

Robert Ballard ad his team went to the wreck of the Lusitania in the summer of 1993 hoping to solve its greatest mystery: What caused the violent explosion that undoubtedly caused the ship to sink so fast? Conspiracy theorists have even claimed that the British sank the ship deliberately to hasten America's entry into World War I. But Ballard's team found no "smoking gun" on the seafloor off the southern Irish coast, however, their technology would have allowed them to bring back a complete visual record of what remains of the great lost liner, preserving her for generations.

Unfortunately for the investigation, previous visitors had already tampered with the evidence. The wreck lies in just 295 feet under water, making it relatively easy for pickings. Reports of blasting and salvaging operations, some apparently conducted by/for the Royal Navy, dated back to 1946. In the 1980s, salvagers had removed two of the bow anchors and three of the four bronze propellers. But nothing prepared the team for the actual scene of devastation. The hull is in two torn and twisted pieces, a sad reflection of its former glory. "It is probable that the bow section tore free of the rest of the ship when it hit bottom. The wreck is pocked with holes that were probably caused by depth charges. The Lusitania lies on her starboard side, obscuring the area where the torpedo hit, but our careful inspection of the port side of the hull revealed no evidence of the gaping hole reported by notorious scuba diver John Light, who made numerous dives to the wreck in the early 1960s. We also discovered that the hull has collapsed to roughly half its original width," Ballard explains in a report essay he wrote after his investigations.  

This fact helps explain how the superstructure has become such a chaotic disaster area, where almost nothing is recognizable. "The decks have slid down to starboard and much of the upperworks of the ship has collapsed into a heap of rubble on the seafloor. To make matters worse, the forecastle was festooned with fishing nets, making this part of the upperworks extremely dangerous for our vehicles to explore." From looking at pictures of his exploration, I was able to notice that only the foremost part of the bow seemed somewhat recognizable as belonging to the famous Blue Riband holder. The bow is upturned to an angle of what I guess would be about 45 degrees, and the outline of the ship's name is visible - one of the biggest highlights of any expedition.

"Directing exploration operations on the Lusitania wreck was a little like parading a marching band through a minefield at midnight - literally as well as metaphorically, since we saw a number of unexploded depth charges, presumably a remnant of Irish naval exercises. I constantly had to worry where each of our three vehicles [were]. And because the wreck lies close to shore, there are strong tidal currents that can play havoc with underwater positioning and cloud the area with sediment. Despite all our care, we had at least one underwater collision and several near misses. And those nets were hellish. At one point our tiny submarine Delta, with three people onboard, sucked a net into its propeller and had to drop its tail to escape. On another occasion, divers had to cut Jason free of nets in which it had become caught," Ballard continues to explain.

In the end, they sailed home with many haunting images of the wreck, including a single womans' shoe and a bathtub complete with shower equipment. But they found nothing to suggest the ship was sabotaged. Nor was there any evidence of an explosion in the area of the ship's magazine, which is presumably where contraband munitions would have been stowed. The other strong possibility: a boiler explosion. But it seems highly unlikely since none were reported by any of the survivors from the three operational boiler rooms. "We finally concluded that the only real clues to the cause of the secondary explosion were the many lumps of coal that lay scattered across the seafloor near the ship and must have fallen from her as she sank."

The torpedo likely ripped open the Lusitania at one of the starboard coal bunkers, nearly empty at the end of the transatlantic crossing. The violent impact kicked up clouds of black coal dust, which when mixed with oxygen and touched by fire becomes an extremely explosive combination. The resulting blast, the reported second explosion, tore open the starboard side of the hull and doomed the ship.

"So ended the life of the Lusitania. She is now a faint ghost of the ocean greyhound she once was, one of the saddest wrecks I've ever seen. But when I visualize her upturned bow, I can imagine the pride of those who once sailed on the swiftest ship in the world." -Robert Ballard

*Note: I'm really sorry if you don't understand the "boat-talk" but I've provided a picture of a ship's anatomy:



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Re: Exploring the RMS Lusitania

Post  Maya Luisa on Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:50 pm

Nice topic. Why did they call it the Lusitania? Didn’t the Germans cause the ship to sink after they fired a missile at it with their U-boats, or submarines, and American people were aboard the ship which is one of the reasons America got involved in World War I? Why would the British sink an American ship? I think the Germans sunk it because they were having a fight underwater with Britain at the time and the Lusitania was passing through and one of the officers in the U-boats got the signal from his master to fire at it once they saw the boat. Because weren’t they firing at everything, like every single British boat that either came from Britain or was going towards it.
Maya Luisa

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