| 19.3°C Dublin

Owner of Lusitania insists it was carrying explosives when it sank

THE owner of the wreck of the Lusitania has rejected the findings of a €1.5m documentary into what caused the liner to sink so fast.

Greg Bemis told the Irish Independent he was now looking for permission from the Government to organise a second dive to the wreck -- some 16km off the Old Head of Kinsale.

Mr Bemis was speaking in Cork, where he attended a special event to mark the worldwide launch of the National Geographic documentary 'Dark Secrets of the Lusitania' -- the most ambitious underwater film project ever attempted here.

"I believe the truth is vital, we need to pursue the truth in all major historical events," Mr Bemis said.

The Lusitania was struck by a single torpedo from the German submarine U-20 on May 7, 1915 off the Cork coast.

However, a second explosion was reported just minutes later, and the ship sank in less than 18 minutes.

A total of 1,198 people died. There were just 761 survivors.

The British and American authorities wrongly accused the U-boat of having fired a second torpedo at the stricken ship.

The second explosion was then blamed on coal dust in a bunker igniting, and the new TV documentary speculates that a boiler blew up when cold sea water rushed into the hull following the torpedo strike.

But Mr Bemis said he remained convinced that Allied munitions being carried by the liner was the real cause.

"They (National Geographic) used insufficient data when they made their decision," he said.

"In fact, they did not have all the information they should have had -- they used a computer analysis to get their theory and a computer is only as good as the garbage you put in. You put garbage in, you get garbage out," he said.

Mr Bemis said a second dive with full access to the hull was now required before the Lusitania centenary.

"You have to understand there were two different types of munitions being carried -- there were three million rounds of .303 (rifle) ammunition on the ship.

"But they would not have caused the second explosion. That was caused, in my opinion, by explosives stored in a magazine at the base of the ship. This was in the bow in a converted coal bunker."

Irish Independent