It was a British ship, sunk by a German submarine, in Irish waters. More than 95 years later, the death toll of the great passenger liner, RMS Lusitania, still staggers—1,198 men, women, children … all civilians, all innocent. And even though fewer than 10% of the victims were U.S. citizens, this was a seminal moment for the United States, as crucial to the country’s historical destiny as Pearl Harbor and 9/11. It can be convincingly argued that the sinking of the Lusitania ultimately brought it into World War One and put the United States on the path to superpower status.
Yet, for all its importance, the fate of the Lusitania remains mired in controversy. Now, an American businessman named Gregg Bemis is launching a new expedition to explore the ship’s wreckage. His goal—to answer some of the questions that have sparked decades of intense debate and controversy. What was the cause of a massive second explosion that rocked the Lusitania, seconds after the torpedo hit? Was the ship carrying a secret cache of war munitions, making it a legitimate target? Or had Germany committed an unprecedented act of mass terrorism?
Answering these questions will be an massive undertaking, requiring the latest in undersea technology. The wreckage lies in 300 feet of water, a depth that tests the limits of even the most skilled technical divers. Thus, the exploration will depend on a two-man submersible and a one atmospheric deep water diving rig known as a Newt Suit. Using a high-pressure water jet technique, the expedition team plans to gain entry to the ship’s hull, by cutting a 2‘ x 2‘ hole in the outer skin of the vessel. The use of pole cameras and a small, camera-equipped ROV (Remote Operated Vehicles) known as the Video Ray will allow for an unprecedented exploration of the interior of the Lusitania, an area that has not been accessed since the day the ship went down.
In an effort to understand (and perhaps even explain) the source of the second explosion, scientists from the Energetic Materials Center at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have agreed to assist in the investigation. They have created both practical demonstrations and computer simulations to illustrate the 4 primary theories regarding the mysterious blast—an illicit shipment of gun cotton (a material used in World War I munitions), an accidental ignition of coal dust or aluminum powder and a boiler/steamline rupture.
Along with the dive expedition footage and the explosive tests, this special presentation utilizes a wealth of archival footage, stills, blueprints and posters of the Lusitania in its heyday when it was known as the “Greyhound of the Seas“. In addition, state of the art 3-D graphics bring the ship alive, helping the audience understand the how’s and why’s of its sinking. The end result is a remarkable expedition into the depths of the Irish Sea, and through the shadows of history … an amazing journey that may finally reveal the Dark Secrets of the Lusitania.
Don’t miss Dark Secrets of the Lusitania tonight, August 31st, at 9P et/pt.