Man of Steel – The first brave diver to the RMS Lusitania

6th October 1935 – The wreck of the RMS Lusitania located off the southwest coast of Ireland.

The sinking of the RMS Lusitania remains one of the greatest disasters to occur in Irish waters. On 7th May 1915 while nearing the end of its voyage from New York to Liverpool in waters some 11 miles off Kinsale, Co. Cork, a German U-boat fired upon the 787ft luxury cruise liner. The ship promptly sank taking with it nearly 1200 men, women and children.

A tragic event – but one that would quickly fall into infamy – remembered as much for the mystery surrounding its sinking and its use as a tool of propaganda to encourage America to enter the war.


RMS Lusitania Impressive star of the Cunard line

There were many wealthy passengers on board the journey from New York to Liverpool and tales grew of the treasure that went down with the ship.

Stories of precious diamonds, gold bullion and priceless paintings. Rumours began of a secret cargo of arms and conspiracy ran rampant – was the Lusitania masquerading as a passenger ship to get arms past the German blockade?

The wreck became the stuff of legends with many eager to uncover her secrets and plunder her treasure.


Suiting Up Jarrett being lowered into the diving suit

Several diving expeditions were undertaken to find the wreck and on 6th October 1935, after three months of searching, the Lusitania was located.  It was the crew of the salvage steamer Orphir – using a depth sounder – that found her almost 12 miles out from Old Kinsale Head.


Boldly Going Diver Jim Jarrett wearing the Tritonia diving suit in 1935

Nearly three weeks later diver Jim Jarrett was lowered to the wreck wearing the 1-atmosphere JS Peress Tritonia diving suit. The suit was designed by a British diving engineer Joseph Salim Peress and weighed an impressive half ton (1000 Lbs). It was more than capable of resisting the intense pressure found at the wreck site, some 305 feet (93 metres) below the surface. The design of the suit, innovative at the time, allowed the diver to move more freely.


Brave diver  Lowered into the water –  a 305ft dive to the RMS Lusitania awaits

Today the wreck is under private ownership of Greg Bemis, a retired venture capitalist who acquired it in the 1960’s. The wreck was originally claimed by the Liverpool & London War Risks Insurance Association who sold it to a navy diver John Light in 1967 for £1,000.  Bemis became a co-owned a year later and fully acquired the wreckage in the 1980’s when he bought out his partners.

Bemis has since mounted several dive expeditions to the site to recover artifacts from the wreck and try uncover the mystery of the second explosion. He continues to search for any proof that the ship was carrying a substantial amount of munitions and finally put an end to at least one of the mysteries that surround the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.

About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22