AN anchor has been recovered from the wreck of the 1916 German gun-running ship scuttled off the south of Ireland.
The Aud, a former English merchant vessel captured by the Germans, was sunk after a failed attempt to deliver a shipment of arms to Irish Republicans during the Easter Rising.
It was carrying 20,000 rifles, machine guns, giant "clockwork" bombs and one million rounds of ammunition when it was deliberately destroyed by its captain while under Royal Navy escort.
Diver Eoin McGarry and archaeologist Lar Dunne led the recovery operation in Cobh Harbour, Co Cork, and have recovered the first of two anchors.
Mr McGarry said the anchors are in very good condition despite spending almost 100 years under water.
"The wreck itself is in a very poor condition and these are the biggest and most tangible assets that could be recovered successfully from the wreck," he told RTE.
"They will remind people up and down the country what they (the Germans) did for us.
"The Germans and everybody involved tried to help us out in our fight for freedom."
Originally an English merchant vessel, it was captured by the Germans in 1914, renamed Aud and disguised as a Norwegian freighter to carry weapons to republicans fighting for independence from British rule.
It arrived off the Kerry coast on April 20 1916 but, due to confused communications, it was unsuccessful in landing its cargo as planned in Fenit Harbour.
The ship was intercepted by the Royal Navy while attempting to escape into the deeper waters of the Atlantic and, while under escort to Queenstown Harbour - now Cobh - the captain of the Aud, Karl Spindler, scuttled the ship rather than have it fall into enemy hands.
In the meantime Sir Roger Casement, who had negotiated the arms shipment with Germany, had been put ashore off a German U-Boat on Banna Strand on April 21 in the hope of a rendezvous with the Aud. He was subsequently arrested, tried for treason and executed on August 3 1916.
The operation was licensed by Ireland's Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan under the National Monuments Acts.
He said it will take approximately two years to conserve the anchors, which will go on display in Cobh and Fenit in time for the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
"The recovery of the anchors is very timely in that it will provide a tangible link between the two places most closely associated with the story of the Aud and the commemoration of the related events in 1916 that shaped the modern history of our nation," said Mr Deenihan.
"The story surrounding the capture and sinking of the Aud also highlights the less talked about place of the 1916 Rising in the broader context of World War I and the conflicting loyalties the war gave rise to here in Ireland."
The anchors will be conserved under the supervision of Ian Panter, Principal Conservator of York Archaeological Trust, in accordance with the requirements of the National Museum of Ireland.
The wreck of the Aud and its artefacts will belong to the Irish State.