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Laurence Dunne Archaeology,
3, Lios na Lohart, Ballyvelly,
Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Mar 22, 2017

Solar Farm assessments and monitoring

Solar Farm assessments and monitoring

Photo; Grazing sheep on solar farm at Newquay, Cornwall

Solar farms comprise field-scale arrays of low ground-fixed photovoltaic (PV) panels that have made increasing inroads into renewable energy in several EU countries. Solar farms can vary in size from small 4MW to large 50MW. Apparently, 1MW is enough power to supply between 150-200 homes. Planning applications for solar farms have increased dramatically in Ireland in the recent past. The ESB state that there are c.3000MW of applications in the pipeline to date. This being the case, it would appear that, solar power is about to make a substantial impact in renewable energy in Ireland. To date just one 5MW solar farm has been built in the island of Ireland in Co. Antrim of which 27% is used for nearby Belfast International Airport to which it is directly connected. In the UK, solar farms began to appear from 2011. Other EU countries been constructing solar farms since 2005 with Germany now producing the largest amount of renewable energy from solar farms in the world.

Small 1.3MW solar farm on a poultry farm in Leicestershire

In 2016 Laurence Dunne Archaeology completed several archaeological impact assessments with regard to planning applications for the construction of solar farms. To date we have completed assessments in counties Kerry, Clare and Cork. Licensed test excavations were also undertaken at some of the sites in response to further information requests from planning authorities.

 Oblique aerial image of archaeological testing for proposed solar farm near Causeway in North Kerry. 

In November 2016, the National Monuments Service of the Dept. Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs issued a Solar Farm Developments – Internal Guidance Document. The document was later made available to all archaeologists. As currently understood, this is the only guidance document regarding solar farms available to any professional body involved with solar farm planning applications in Ireland.

Of particular interest is that the land between and beneath the solar arrays can still be used for the grazing of small livestock of which sheep are ideally suited.

Sheep grazing beneath a 5MW solar farm near Glastonbury

Jul 29, 2016

Aud Anchor goes on display in Blennerville, Tralee

Aud Anchor goes on display in Blennerville, Tralee

Stephen O'Sullivan, John Moriarty and Laurence Dunne. Photo courtesy Kerry's Eye

The Admiralty pattern streaming anchor from the 1916 gun-running ship the Aud  has been put on display at the Windmill Complex, Blennerville in advance of the centenary of the execution of Roger Casement in Pentonville Prison, London on 3rd August 1916. The display also includes a series of information panels that we produced to document the contemporary history of the Aud including Roger Casement's role and other related information on the Kerry Volunteers. The display further includes a comprehensive account on the Recovery and subsequent Conservation of the two Aud anchors undertaken at our facility in Tralee between 2012 and 2016.  The second stockless anchor is on display in the Cobh Heritage Centre.The entire project was funded by the Tralee Bay Heritage Association supported by NEWKD, Leader Program.

Apr 24, 2016

 1916-2016 Centenary Commemoration Banna Strand Co. Kerry

1916-2016 Centenary Commemoration Banna Strand Co. Kerry

The Centenary Commemoration of Roger Casement at Banna Strand on Thursday 21st April was a very special occasion for us in Kerry (and indeed for people nationwide and worldwide). This was the only State Commemoration outside of Dublin.

Laurence Dunne Archaeology in association with the Tralee Bay Heritage Association were honoured to be invited to participate in the State centenary event by displaying the two anchors from the Aud  that were conserved in Tralee in time for the commemorations and had been unveiled recently by Minister for Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan with the German Ambassador Matthias Hoffner. The anchors were the only artefacts on display and apart from President Higgins, were the focal point on the day for the public as well as invitees. After making an evocative and erudite speech on the life and achievements of Roger Casement, President Michael D Higgins laid a wreath at the imposing Stockless anchor. With the pristine Banna Strand in the background, the LÉ Niamh was on station in Tralee Bay under Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wall. 

It was the most appropriate setting for the Commemoration 100 years to the day when the Aud  under the command of Kapitan zur See der Reserve, Karl Spindler and his volunteer crew of twenty-two were perilously steaming around Tralee Bay with its cargo of arms for the Irish Volunteers searching in vain for a signal that never came. Earlier that same day, in darkness, Roger Casement, Robert Monteith and Julian Bailey came ashore by dinghy from U-19 at Carrahane on 'the lonely Banna Strand'.

It was not lonely this 21st April! Thousands turned out for this momentous and moving event. For us it was the culmination of five years work in planning, recovery and conservation of the two Aud anchors. We were delighted and honoured to be involved in this historic event.

Personally, placing the two anchors at Banna Strand at 4.15pm on Wednesday the 20th April (the day before the State event) had more historic context and resonance as that was the exact time that the Aud arrived at its clandestine rendezvous point one mile north-west of Inishtooskert and where the anchors had last been dropped. Last Wednesday was a brilliant sunny and flat calm day and as the LÉ Niamh had taken up a position off the Magharee Islands I could not help but feel moved to thinking that the Aud had at last returned and landed in Tralee Bay.

- Laurence Dunne

Feb 19, 2016

Unveiling Aud Anchors Tralee

Unveiling Aud Anchors Tralee

Pictured above :The German Ambassador Matthias Höfner,Minister Jimmy Deenihan ,members of Tralee Bay Heritage Association and Archaeologist Laurence Dunne.

Aud Anchors 1916-2016 Centenary Commemoration Unveiling

Attended by almost a thousand people, the unveiling of two anchors from the 1916 gun-running ship the Aud took place in the Brandon Hotel Tralee on Friday 12th February 2016. At the event, hosted by the Tralee Bay Heritage Association, the German Ambassador Matthias Höfner and Minister Jimmy Deenihan performed the unveiling. Several of the divers who were involved in the archaeological recovery of the anchors in 2012 were also in attendance. Children from schools around Kerry attended as well as local politicians, councillors and interested members of the public. A slide show and information panels compiled by Laurence Dunne Archaeology and a short film by Paul Dolan provided detailed information on the recovery and conservation of the anchors that took almost four years to conserve in Tralee.

Music for the event was performed by a wonderful Opus 96 Choir, while the ballad Banna Strand was sung by local man Willie Kelly and Spailpin.

The unveiling of the anchors is the culmination of over 5 years work by Tralee Bay Heritage Association (www.tbha.ie) and Laurence Dunne Archaeology (www.ldarch.ie) who supervised their recovery in 2012 and undertook their conservation in Tralee with York Archaeological Trust under licence from the National Museum of Ireland.

Feb 11, 2016

 Aud Anchors 1916-2016 Centenary Conservation Project

Aud Anchors 1916-2016 Centenary Conservation Project

At 12:00 on Friday 12th February 2016 two anchors recovered from the historic shipwreck of the 1916 gun-running ship the Aud will be unveiled at the Brandon Hotel, Tralee, Co. Kerry by the German Ambassador Matthias Hofner and Minister Jimmy Deenihan. The event is being hosted by Tralee Bay Heritage Association (TBHA).

Laurence Dunne Archaeology provided the archaeological expertise with regard to the recovery of the anchors from the seabed at the entrance to Cork harbour in June 2012 and their subsequent conservation. The unveiling is the culmination of almost five year’s work including planning, licensed dive recovery and licensed conservation.

The Centenary Conservation Project was an initiative of the Tralee Bay Heritage Association in conjunction with other interested individuals and divers from Kerry, Cork and Waterford. The impetus to recover the two anchors arose because they are regarded as important and easily understood artefacts of an extraordinary event in the foundation history of the Republic of Ireland in the lead up to the 1916 Easter Rising.

Anchors Recovery Expedition June 2012

After 14 months of planning and organizing, the flotilla set off from Cobh to the historic shipwreck site at the entrance to Cork Harbour off Daunt Rock. The dive recovery expedition was licensed by the Underwater Archaeology Unit of the National Monuments Service of the Dept. Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht of which Jimmy Deenihan T.D. was Minister.

After several preparatory dives by a team of volunteer divers and a final dive on the day the anchors were finally secured for lifting. The first to be recovered was the stocked anchor also known as an Admiralty pattern streaming anchor. It broke the surface of the water just before noon after almost 100 years on the seabed. The second larger stockless anchor was recovered, an hour later just before 1pm. Laurence Dunne was on board the recovery vessel Rón Carraig, skippered by Gavin Tivy and Pat Waide from Youghal. The expedition was archaeologically monitored by Dr. Connie Kelleher of the Underwater Archaeology Unit.  Operating from the Seahunter Timmy Carey and Eoin McGarry supervised the dive team which included maritime archaeologist Julianna O’Donoghue. Additional dive support was provided by Naval divers. A third boat the Harpy operated by Carroll O'Donoghue from Kinsale will also in attendance with members of TBHA on board.

On arrival back to a packed dock at Cobh the anchors recovery team, families,friends and dignitaries availed of the good weather for a photo opportunity and a chance to examine the historic artefacts. TBHA members orchestrated the care and management of the anchors once they were landed at Cobh under the supervision of Laurence Dunne. The anchors were then carefully loaded into heavy duty water tanks on a truck provided by John Moriarty Engineering, Tralee and transported to our conservation facility in Tralee.


The conservation of the two large anchors took almost four years to complete under licence issued by the National Museum of Ireland. Conservation was carried out by Laurence Dunne Archaeology in association with Ian Panter chief conservator of York Archaeological Trust.  During the project we provided a training course in artefact preservation and conservation for a number of interested people .The conservation and training were part-funded by the EU under the LEADER Rural Development Programme Ireland 2007-2013 administered locally by North East Kerry Development (NEKD)

De-concretion and de-salination:

The primary process was the removal of the hard crust or concretion that had developed around the anchors in the 100 odd years since it was scuttled on the 22nd April 1916.After de-concretion the anchors were repeatedly washed with a low-pressure power hose. Finally, they were returned to their individual tanks and filled with 2700 litres of water and a solution of sodium hydroxide as a rust inhibitor to begin the process of de-salination.

Removal of the chlorides (salt) in the anchors was undertaken using a combination of electrolysis followed by repeated washing, flushing of tanks and re-immersion. Electrolysis involves the passing of a slight current through the metal which has the effect of increasing or accelerating the rate of chloride (salt) removal water in the tanks was monitored and sampled every two weeks and analysed in the facility and re-checked for verification purposes in the laboratory in Kerry County Council who very kindly supported the conservation from the start. The entire de-salination of the anchors took 18 months by which time the chloride in the anchors had dropped to below 50ppm at which point they were effectively deemed de-salinated.

The anchors were removed from their submerged environment and placed on large wooden blocks. Drying involved placing a heavy duty canvas enclosure over the anchors to create a localised humidity environment.

Drying, cleaning and finishing :

After drying for several weeks, flash rusting was removed and each anchor was hand-cleaned using a combination of tools as well as a selection of fine wire wool etc. After almost a year the anchors were finally cleaned down to the bare metal.

The surfaces of the anchors were then given an application of tannic acid solution which reacts with the iron to form iron tannate that inhibits the ingress of moist air on the reactive bare metal surface. The tannic acid also gives the anchors a blue-black tint. They then received finishing coats of matt black anti-corrosion metal paint.

The Aud

The Aud was originally named the SS Castro when it was built in Kingston-Upon-Hull in 1910. At the outbreak of WW1 it was captured by the Germans and renamed the SMS Libau.

The secret gun-running mission was masterminded by Roger Casement who had been negotiating with Germany since his arrival there in October 1914. Finally, in April 1916, with a rebellion imminent, Germany sent 20,000 rifles, ten machine guns and other war materiel on the steamship Libau, disguised as a neutral Norwegian cargo ship the Aud, to Fenit Co. Kerry to arm the Irish Volunteers. Casement, travelled separately by submarine, U-19 accompanied by two members of the Irish Brigade, Robert Monteith and Julian Bailey or Beverley who later turned State’s evidence at Casement’s trial.


The disguised German ship under the command of Karl Spindler departed from Lübeck on the 9th April and, following an epic circuitous voyage evading the Royal Navy blockade, arrived at its rendezvous off Inishtooskert Island, Maharees in Tralee Bay on the afternoon of the 20th April (Holy Thursday, Easter week) 1916. Casement arrived near midnight the same day in U-19 under the command of Raimund Weisbach. For reasons that are still much in debate today, Casement and the Aud failed to meet up and Casement and his companions put ashore in a dingy at Banna Strand. The following day Casement, who was ill, was arrested while hiding in a ringfort at Carrahane. After steaming around Tralee Bay for almost two days Spindler, realizing that the game was up, speedily departed only to be captured by a Royal Navy flotilla off the SW coast and escorted to Queenstown (Cobh) by HMS Bluebell. At the entrance to Cork Harbour Spindler and his volunteer crew donned their Kaiserliche Marine uniforms and raised their colours before scuttling their ship with pre-set explosives. The stricken ship sank immediately, taking its lethal cargo to the bottom. Meanwhile, the German crew had taken to lifeboats and were picked up by HMS Bluebell and were interned as prisoners-of-war. Although, for several reasons, the attempt to land the arms failed, the event is seen as the most audacious effort on the part of Germany to help the Irish Volunteers.


The anchors are defining tangible artefacts of the historic shipwreck as well as fitting memorials to the audacity of the Aud’s captain, Karl Spindler and his crew, the local Irish Volunteers and the overall extraordinary effort of Roger Casement’s secret gun-running mission from Germany to Fenit in April 1916.


What’s left to do!

Conservation of the anchors is virtually completed. Research, illustration drawings, detailed overview of results, and 3D scanning is still required. Monitoring of the conserved artefacts is also required while specialist work is needed on hemp recovered from the stockless as well as a wooden pin from one of the shackles. A report on the results must also be submitted to the National Museum of Ireland and the Underwater Archaeology Unit of the National Monuments Service. It is envisaged that the story of the recovery and conservation will also be published.

See facebook for more images

May 7, 2015

Sinking of the Lusitania 100 years ago today - lest we forget

Sinking of the Lusitania 100 years ago today - lest we forget

100 years ago today 7th May at 2.10pm the pride of the Cunard Line, RMS Lusitania, was struck by a single torpedo fire by a German submarine, U-20, off the Old Head of Kinsale. Almost immediately after a second massive internal explosion occurred and the world's fastest passenger liner sank by the bow on its impacted starboard side in just 18 minutes with the loss of 1201 lives.

At 12 noon on the 1st May the Lusitania with 1,960 passengers, crew and three stowaways embarked from the Cunard Dock at Pier 54 New York bound for Liverpool. As well as passengers it also carried a mixed cargo including over 4 million rounds of .303 ammunition as well as other war material, the precise nature of which is not entirely known to this day.

The Lusitania is without doubt the world’s most important historic shipwreck.The impacts and ramifications, both nationally and internationally, of the huge loss of life of innocent, non-combatants, men, women and children, continues to have immense relevance and historic resonance that is especially poignant during these centenary commemorations.

Questions, blame and conspiracy theories

How could the fastest passenger liner in the world, the greyhound of the seas, be hit by a submarine when it could travel at almost twice the surface speed and three times the submerged speed of a submarine? What caused the second internal detonation that resulted in the incredibly rapid sinking of the Lusitania in only 18 minutes with such enormous loss of life? Was the Lusitania carrying explosives that were detonated by the impact of the torpedo? Who was responsible for its destruction? Why was it not protected by British naval escort when it made its approach into the narrow waters of the declared unrestricted warzone off our coast, often referred to as 'U-boat Alley'. Why was it not informed of the daily attacks and sinkings by U-20 all along the south coast of Ireland between Carnsore Point in Wexford, Daunt's Rock off Cork Harbour and the Old Head of Kinsale in the six days leading up to its own destruction? Why did a German U-boat attack a massive passenger liner in the first place? Was the Lusitania a 'legitimate' target? Was it the '45,000 tons of live-bait' that Winston Churchill referred to it as at Liverpool docks the previous September? Was it a callous attack by a belligerent nation on an innocent passenger liner?

Lusitania -Greyhound of the Seas

  • The 30,396 ton passenger liner Lusitania: pride of the Cunard Line, largest ship ever built at the time and hailed as the finest ship in the World. Dimensions 238.5m (length), 26.5m (beam), 18.3m (height to boat deck), 10.2m draught.
  • The RMS Lusitania was an enormous ship-the equivalent of a street block in New York at sea.
  • Designed by the engineer Leonard Peskett as a veritable floating hotel with accommodation for 2300 guests and a staff of 900
  • A loan was given to Cunard at a low rate of interest by the British government who wanted fast Atlantic civilian liners capable of being pressed into naval service as auxiliary cruisers at a moment’s notice.
  • Laid down in 1904 and launched in 1906. It was built by John Brown & Co. Ltd, on the Clyde in Scotland.
  • It had four giant steam-turbine engines fitted instead of the usual reciprocating pistons, the first time a merchant ship had been fitted out in this way. However, these giant engines consumed up to 1000 tons of coal per day at max speed
  • Revolutionary 4 giant turbine engines generating 68,000 horse power designed by Charles Parsons
  • Another innovation was electric controls for steering, detecting fire and for closing her watertight compartments, of which there were 175
  • Fitted out for her maiden voyage to New York leaving Liverpool on the 7th September 1907 cheered by over 200,000 people
  • Lusitania called at Cobh (Queenstown) on her maiden voyage to similar enthusiasm
  • Arrival in New York was a major event with the ship receiving a rapturous welcome
  • Capable of travelling at 25 knots-on her second voyage she won the coveted Blue Riband by doing the Atlantic Crossing in 4.5 days with a speed of 25.88 knots-, (30 miles per hour, or 48 km per hour)
  • Sister ship of the Mauritania that served as a troop ship during WW1
  • Lifeboats: 22 standard with 22 collapsible lifeboats added after the Titanic enquiry.


Modifications to Lusitania in preparation for war :

  • Secretly between May and July 1913, a year before WW1 started, twelve revolving gun-rings for twelve 6-inch guns, six on each side were installed on the Lusitania
  • the shelter deck and below the upper deck were also double plated
  • The reserve coal bunker immediately forward of Boiler 1 was converted to a magazine with special shell racking. A second magazine was converted from one of the mail rooms at the stern
  • In March 1914 Winston Churchill, then Lord of the Admiralty announced that forty British Merchant ships had been ‘defensively’ armed
  • With the outbreak of war in August 1914 Lusitania was fitted with her guns in the Canada Dock in Liverpool and was ready for war by September 17th.
  • Leonard Peskett told Churchill that the Lusitania was ready and Churchill remarked that as far as he was concerned the Lusitania was only '45,000 tons of live-bait'- a remark that was to come back to haunt him.
  • On September 24th the Admiralty changed its mind and informed Cunard that it had a new role for the Lusitania to prioritise cargo space to transport material for the war effort.
  • The Lusitania went back into service as a passenger liner with its guns removed but with ‘a very important job to do’ as the Secretary of the Admiralty put it.


World War 1

War with Germany was in the air all through the start of the twentieth century. From the beginning the Lusitania had been included in the British Admiralty plans as an auxiliary cruiser. It was also included in the 1914 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships, which every submarine had a copy, with silhouettes provided of every naval ship in the world.

World War 1-the war to end all warscommenced on August 4th 1914 and in November the Royal Navy blockadesthe German ports.

Ireland as a part of the British Empire was a belligerent and four of her ports were used as naval bases - Cork Harbour (Queenstown), Berehaven, Lough Swilly and Dun Laoghaire (Kingstown). Cork was the headquarters.

The Admiralty was not prepared for submarine warfare and did not realise that German U-Boats had long range offensive capability and could travel around Scotland, the west coast of Ireland and up the Irish Sea. Initially it saw the main threat was elsewhere by surface craft and maintained only a small and generally useless flotilla out of Cobh under Admiral Coke-who was later replaced by Admiral Bayly.

They were shocked at how vulnerable many of her fleet were-particularly the Baccante class cruisers when three, the Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy,were destroyed on the 22nd September 1914 with the loss of 1459 men by a single submarine, U-9 under the command of Otto Weddigen.

The first attack on merchant ships was in October 1914. In an effort to counteract the U-boat menace merchant ships known as ‘Mystery ‘or ‘Q-ships’ were fitted out that concealed armaments with naval crews dressed as civilians. Several of the Q-ships were fitted out at Queenstown, hence the name.

The Admiralty also issued orders to treat all captured U-boat crews as felons and not to accord them prisoner-of-war status- Churchill wrote that U-boat survivors ‘should be taken prisoner or shot-whichever is the most convenient’.In any event, the gloves were off and an exceedingly horrific aspect of WW1 was played out off this coast.

Up to this Cruiser Rules were the accepted norm for belligerent naval powers since the time of Henry the VIII. Essentially, naval ships would stop a vessel check her papers, cargo etc. If the ship was an enemy vessel it could then be taken and its cargo as a prize and its crew as hostages.

On the 18th February 1915 Germany declared the waters around Ireland and UK an unrestricted warzone. All ships entering this zone were liable to be destroyed without warning. Submarines were no longer required to first surface and give warnings although some sometimes did.

The Falaba Incident.

On the 28th March 1915 Captain Schmidt of U-28 forced the 5000 ton British liner Falaba to halt by firing a shot across her bows and gave the passenger liner ten minutes to abandon ship. However, the Falaba continued to send out wireless messages for help and this continued when they were given another ten minutes. In the course of a further three minute extension an armed British trawler appeared and consequently U-28 fired a torpedo into the liner’s stern which detonated 13 tons of high explosive that it was carrying.

The Falaba was the first passenger liner to be sunk by a U-boat in WW1.

At 02.10 pm on the afternoon of the 7th May 1915 the Lusitania was struck by a single torpedo fired by U-20, circa eleven miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, Co. Cork.

In the week after Lusitania left New York, 23 ships had been sunk in the area that she was sailing into.

No word was relayed to the Lusitania about the submarine activity and the radio messages between the Admiralty and the Lusitania between the 5th and 7th of May remain classified to this day.


Sinking of the Lusitania

The Lusitania was hit on its forward starboard side by the torpedo.A second much larger explosion occurred in the same area almost immediately after the torpedo strike. This massive second internal detonation precipitated the rapid sinking of the Lusitania. Immense quantities of water poured into the forward area accelerated by the fact that this leviathan of the sea had been travelling at around 18 knots at the time of impact.

The great liner came to rest on the seabed on its starboard side thus concealing the physical evidence of both explosions and thereby masking the opportunity or ability to evaluate the ultimate source or reason for the second explosion, the cause of which has remained one of modern history’s greatest secrets-Cé shéid an Lusitania? as Caoimhín Ó Cinnéide asks in his haunting poem Carraig Aonair.

Officially the death toll was 1198 but this number did not include three stowaways that had been discovered early on in the voyage and had been detained in the brig. Among the dead there were 291 women and 94 children. The majority of the 764 survivors were landed in Cobh and others at Kinsale and Baltimore. Only 289 bodies were eventually found of which 65 were never identified. Lusitania victims were found all along the south west coast, some washed in months later in Kerry and as far away as the Aran Islands and Mayo.

A flotilla of vessels of all kind rushed to the tragic site from Cobh and Kinsale, Courtmacsherry and Baltimore. The Courtmacsherry lifeboat took hours to row out there as there was no wind.


Aftermath :

The blame game and the massive enlistment drive in the aftermath of the sinking was a dreadful cynical aspect of the whole affair. Who knows just how many men did enlist because of the enormous propaganda campaign and how many of them lost their lives at the Somme or Gallipoli during this 'war to end all wars.


The commander of U-20 was Kapitӓnleutnant Walther Schwieger while the officer who fired the torpedo was Raimund Weisbach. The following year the promoted Weisbach featured in an episode of Irish national history as it was he who was in command of U-19 that brought Sir Roger Casement from Germany to Tralee Bay in April 1916.

Mystery surrounds the cause of the second explosion with blame cast by both sides at the time. The British claimed that it was due to a second torpedo while the Germans, in refuting the claim, maintained that the cause was due to the explosion of gun-cotton and or other explosive material that they claim the liner was clandestinely carrying. Germany regarded the Lusitania as a legitimate target. In that context Germany had warned and advertised intending passengers in New York, before it sailed on its fateful journey to Liverpool, not to travel as they would be entering the war zone.


The huge loss of life included the deaths of 128 American passengers. There was enormous public outpouring and denunciation of the sinking on both sides of the Atlantic.


Whatever, the political, wartime protocols or conventions on what constituted a legitimate target, the Lusitania as a passenger liner was hardly a moral target. As a corollary to that, the wider corpus of evidence strongly supports the possibility that Lusitania was transporting large quantities of explosive war material to Liverpool, aside from the millions of rounds of.303 ammunition recorded on the published manifest and indeed seen by us during our Expedition in 2011. If this is the case, and it appears to be so, there is much blame on the British side as well. The Falaba sinking five weeks before the Lusitania needs to be taken into consideration.


The shipwreck of the Lusitania itself is privately owned by Mr. Gregg Bemis Jr. of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mr. Bemis owns the physical wreck itself however, the cargo and personal belongings of the passengers and crew are not his.

The wreck of the Lusitania is a protected monument in the jurisdiction of the Irish State.Consequently, any diving to the Lusitania requires the permission of Mr. Bemis as well as a licence from the Underwater Archaeology Unit of the National Monuments Service of the Dept of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

In 1995 the Irish Government put a heritage protection order on the Lusitania that made it, in effect, Ireland’s only underwater National Monument.

In 2011, Laurence Dunne was the lead project archaeologist for a major expedition to the wreck of the Lusitania that was funded by the National Geographic Channel in association with Mr. F. Gregg Bemis. The expedition was undertaken in two phases at the start and end of August 2011.The resulting documentary by the National Geographic Channel, Dark Secrets of the Lusitania was released in July 2012.


The primary objective of the Expedition was to try to discover physical evidence for the cause of the massive second explosion while the secondary objective was the recovery of a number of specific artefacts from the shipwreck.

The archaeological expedition team comprised three maritime archaeologists – Laurence Dunne, Julianna O'Donoghue and Ian Panter Chief Conservator of York Archaeological Trust. The Expedition was also monitored by two archaeologists of the Underwater Archaeology Unit of National Monuments Service.

This was the first Expedition to the Lusitania that included an Irish based maritime archaeological company or indeed any archaeologistlicensed by the State.

In late August 2011 we returned to the wrecksite in flat calm conditions with a small thirteen member recovery team comprising: four crew members, one photographer, a dive team of six and two marine archaeologists aided by a recovery boat the Rón Carraig and dive vessel the Harpy re-visited the wrecksite and successfully recovered five artefacts- the telemotor, telltale, two portholes and first class cabin windows.

The artefacts were transported to Tralee where they were de-salinated and meticulously conserved under licence from the National Museum of Ireland over a couple of years. They have since been returned to their owner Gregg Bemis.

See main menu for animation created of 1st class cabin window

See facebook for audio visual presentation

Scale comparison of the Lusitania with the 1916 gun-running ship the Aud and Kerry Co. Museum

Scale comparison of the Lusitania with the 1916 gun-running ship the Aud and Kerry Co. Museum

The Libau disguised as the Aud

Conservation of artefacts from Lusitania at Laurence Dunne Archaeology, Tralee, Co. Kerry

Conservation of artefacts from Lusitania at Laurence Dunne Archaeology, Tralee, Co. Kerry

RMS Lusitania at 'Queenstown' , now Cobh, Co. Cork

RMS Lusitania at 'Queenstown' , now Cobh, Co. Cork

Jan 29, 2015

IPMAG Conference

This year's Irish Post Medieval Archaeology Group conference being held in Kinsale features a number of lectures relating to projects which we have been associated with, including:

- The Colla Shipwreck (Julianna O'Donoghue)

- The Lusitania (Fionbarr Moore)

- The Aud Shipwreck (Karl Brady)

IPMAG XV Conference Poster 2015.pdf

IPMAG XV Conference Programme 2015.pdf

Nov 19, 2014

17th Century shipwreck of East Indiaman the Wind Trader exposed in Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry.

17th Century shipwreck of East Indiaman the Wind Trader exposed in Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry.

(Image shows a model of an East Indiaman made circe 1740 in Holland)

During low spring tides in September and October 2014 Laurence Dunne Archaeology were engaged by the Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU) of the National Monuments Service under the direction of Dr. Connie Kelleher to assist in a survey and targeted excavations of a 17th century shipwreck that had become partially exposed on Ballyheigue Strand. The work was undertaken as a rapid response to reports from the public that individuals were removing artefacts from the vulnerable shipwreck.

The name of the ship is not definitively known but current research indicates that it may have been the Wind Trader, an East Indiaman, which operated on the Baltic-Bristol-American trade route that was wrecked at Ballyheigue circe 1729. Recent records show that sections of the shipwreck have occasionally become visible in the sand since the 1960’s. At these low spring tides locals have removed quantities of intact and broken ceramics including Westerwald and Frechen stoneware from Germany and fine table wares from Bristol, numerous magnums of port, barrel staves and several other artefacts.. In the mid 1970’s substantial quantities of artefacts were removed many of which adorn the houses of Ballyheigue today. Recently several wonderful artefacts recovered from the Wind Trader by local historian Eddie Roe were deposited in the Kerry County Museum, Tralee after his death. In the course of our recent work almost 250 artefacts were recovered

In 1987 the National Monuments Act was amended and since then it is illegal to remove or interfere with shipwrecks that are over 100 years old without a licence from the National Monuments Service.


Our current research show that around 238 shipwrecks occurred between Brandon Point, Kerryhead and Tralee. Of that total there are around 26 recorded shipwrecks in Ballyheigue alone with another 9 at Kerryhead, five on Banna Beach and 10 at Barrow. In the overall Tralee Bay area there is an amazing total of 181 shipwrecks recorded so far.

The majority of the shipwreck records understandably date to the 18th and 19th centuries during the age of sail as by that time ships and their cargoes began to be insured. Lloyds List of records is one of the major research resources for shipwrecks. Bad weather aside, a major contributory factor to the large number of shipwrecks during the age of sail was due to poor navigation as there were virtually no accurate sea charts completed until the 19th century. Early cartographers placed the Magharee Islands and Fenit Island in the wrong place and in some maps Kerryhead does not appear at all. Many shipwrecks occurred because vessels assumed they were entering the Shannon Estuary for Limerick by staying south of Loop Head when in fact it was Kerryhead that they were off.

Shipwrecks were regarded as a commodity item in the medieval period as documents from 1314 record that Robert DeClahull, sheriff of Kerry, paid the Exchequer £6 10s in rent ...for having the wrecks of the sea of Offerbe for many years. Offerbe is derived from Uí Fearba, the ancient medieval name of the area. The situation had not changed by the end of the 16th century when the Earls of Desmond owned the ‘rights of the wreck of the sea’ from Beare to the Shannon which was regarded as a valuable asset.

Tralee Bay is an extremely dangerous bay to be in a storm and was even more so in the age of sail. The bay is shallow and has many islands, reefs and rocks. The earliest description of Tralee Bay was recorded by Charles Smith in 1756 and who also provided a map. Smith writes...’The east side is a flat, low land, called Magheriebeg, off which are 7 small islands called the Hogs...By giving the Hog Islands a berth, and sailing east by north you come into Tralee Bay, little frequented by ships, being dry at low water; however small vessels lie safe aground in it. The channel is towards the middle of the bay, the entrance is between two small islands, called the Sampier Isles to the north, and the mainland to the south. All the maps of Ireland and sea charts place Fenit Island, which they call Fenor, in the middle of this bay, whereas it lies close to the shore on the north side, between which and the main there is a small creek for ships, which must be entered from the north, but the passage is so narrow and foul, that it cannot be entered without a good pilot.

A number of ships wrecked, including the Wind Trader, were East Indiamen. These were very large three masted and three decked armed cargo ships operated from the Baltic and Netherlands trading between major ports like Bristol and Liverpool to the East Indies and to the Americas.

The most famous of the Ballyheigue shipwrecks is the Danish East Indiaman the Gyldenlove more commonly known as the Golden Lion that stranded on Ballyheigue Beach on the 28th October 1730. The ship was en route from Copenhagen to Tranquebar, India, under Capt. Johan Heitman, with 12 chests of silver bullion worth £16,000 / £50,000, 60 tons of iron and corn. Seen to be in difficulty it was guided in with lights put up by Mr. Crosbie of Ballyheigue Castle and driven into shallow waters and was beached during the storm. The captain, chaplain, officers and 60 crew were rescued. The recovered silver was later stolen and was subject of much conspiracy and legal transactions.

It is anticipated that further archaeological monitoring and surveying of the shipwreck will be undertaken at low spring tide opportunities in 2015


Surveying and recording the shipwreck of the 17th century Wind Trader in Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry

Surveying and recording the shipwreck of the 17th century Wind Trader in Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry

Sep 27, 2014

Monitoring of works at Dunbeg Coastal Promontory Fort, Dingle Peninsula - September 2014

Monitoring of works at Dunbeg Coastal Promontory Fort, Dingle Peninsula - September 2014

Dunbeg fort was reopened to the public yesterday afternoon seven months after a large section of it collapsed into the sea during very severe storms this past winter. Since at least 1841 when the first mapping was undertaken, Dunbeg has been gradually destroyed by the sea. However last winter’s storms were the worst on record resulting in a massive collapse that has necessitated the permanent closing of the original entranceway through the stone rampart. Visitors are now redirected by a new fence to the left or southeast on approach to gain access to the interior.

Dunbeg, Dún Beag, is an iconic coastal promontory fort situated in a dramatic sea-girt location on the cliffs Chorca Dhuibhne on the south side of the Dingle Peninsula. It is one of around twenty on the peninsula out of a total of approximately two hundred recorded in Ireland.

As the name indicates these monuments comprise linear fortifications constructed with earth and stone across the landward approach to the promontory with steep cliffs providing the remaining natural defences. The fortifications include combinations of earthen banks, fosses (ditches) and stone ramparts that extend across the necks of the promontory. A causeway usually extends across the defences to the entrance. Hutsites (clocháns) are frequently present and in some instances souterrains are also found in the interior reflecting the occupation or settlement of the sites.

In some instances, i.e. at Dún Uí Mhaoláin in Ventry Harbour the defences consist of just a single bank and fosse while others, including Dunbeg have complex multiple vallations.The most visually spectacular is Dún Easc situated close to Dingle in the townland of Ballymacadoyle. The largest by far is the Dún Mór in Coumeenole North on the most westerly tip of the Dingle Peninsula. Although Dunmore encloses over 80 acres (32ha) its fortifications that extend across the headland for circa 500m are very insubstantial. This defensively impractical structure most likely is ritual in nature in that its defences demarcate sacred space dedicated to the tutelary goddess Dhuibhne (Dovinnias). In that context dramatically situated at the summit of the headland is a very fine ogham stone inscribed with her name.

These wonderfully situated sites are somewhat of an archaeological conundrum for a number of reasons. The largely accepted defensive nature of these sites is not supported by the dearth of occupation evidence from excavated examples. Indeed results indicate that settlement was of a short duration while radiocarbon dates appear to generally support an early medieval milieu coeval with cahers and ringforts. Irish coastal promontory forts share similar morphological similarities to Breton and Cornish sites that have been associated with the Veneti and consequently Irish sites have traditionally been attributed to the Iron Age. The reality is that only one radiocarbon date from the Iron Age has been recorded in Ireland and this was obtained from Dunbeg. However, caution must be exercised here as the date was recovered from an earlier fosse situated abutting the interior of the stone rampart and whose nature and extent were not determined.Coastal promontory forts were often re-occupied and re-fortified in the high medieval period with the construction of tower houses on the interior i.e. at Ferriter’s Cove near Ballyferriter.

 Dunbeg has been a National Monument since 1892 and has enjoyed quite an amount of attention from scholars and antiquarians since the mid-19th century.In 1977 it was extensively excavated by Terry Barry over three months. Since that time it has become a visitor centre with car-parking, audio visual centre and restaurant provided by the local landowner and from which a short pathway extends downslope to the cliff edge site.

Dunbeg has suffered seasonal collapse from intense coastal erosion over many years. Cartographic evidence indicates that possibly as much as 50% of the site, mostly of the western limits of the monument, has fallen into the sea. A generation ago the OPW erected a protective fence as well as a wooden support frame through the entrance of the stone rampart. Last winter's storms were particularly violent resulting in the collapse of a large section of the fort. Access through the original entranceway of the stone rampart is now permanently closed off as the recent collapse has now extended as far as the inside of the entranceway. After the recent collapse the monument was temporarily closed off to the public by the OPW.

Re-fencing works have just been completed and the site has now been reopened to the public. Monitoring of the new fence works was undertaken by Laurence Dunne Archaeology who also supervised minor remedial conservation works to sections of the earthen ramparts that have suffered from visitor stress as well as slumping to some sections of the 1977 excavations. A report on the results will be submitted to the OPW and the National Monuments Service.

Sep 24, 2014

2014 Season of Excavation at Caherconnor Stone Fort

2014 Season of Excavation at Caherconnor Stone Fort

We are currently undertaking an excavation of the interior of Clochán 2 in Caherconnor-Cathair na gConchúrach in advance of remedial works by the Office of Public Works (OPW) to the upper courses of this corbelled structure otherwise known as a beehive hut. The work is being undertaken on behalf of the OPW under the auspices of the National Monuments Service and with Ministerial Consent.

Caherconnor is an early medieval caher (cathair) or cashel (caiseal) in the townland of Glanfahan on the southernmost limits of the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. The aspect from the site which is situated on a bumpy terrace on the lower slopes of Mount Eagle-Sliabh an Iolar is breathtaking, comprising an expansive maritime vista across Dingle Bay set to a backdrop of the MacGillicuddy Reeks of the Iveragh Peninsula to the south-east while Valentia and the Skelligs are clearly visible to the south with the Blasket Islands peeking out around Slea Head to the west. A little upslope is the nearby stone fort of Caher na Mártíneach, as well as the many clocháns, stone walls, trackways and ancient routeways-all of which are clearly visible. This is, perhaps, the most visually stunning, densely packed and easily understood archaeological / cultural palimpsest in Ireland. The density of clocháns here prompted writers and scholars to refer to the adjoining townlands of Glanfahan and Fahan as the ‘City’. Between the two townlands alone there is a remarkable total of 320 recorded archaeological sites that must rank as the most archaeologically populated area in Ireland if not in Western Atlantic Europe.

Much of the archaeology of the area appears to reflect the early medieval period. However communities of people have been living on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula since the late Mesolithic Period (Middle Stone Age). Other prehistoric sites include at least three Bronze Age wedge tombs between Ventry and Dunquin as well as several standing stones and a scatter of ring-barrows testament to continual settlement here throughout prehistory.

Caherconnor was examined and surveyed by a number of antiquarians and archaeologists in the latter half of the 19th century. The contributions of G.V. DuNoyer and R.A.S. Macalister are of particular relevance as they both completed ground plans while DuNoyer also undertook several sketches in his own inimical style. More recently Caherconnor was surveyed and published by Judith Cuppage in the Dingle Peninsula Archaeological Survey in 1986.

Caherconnor is a sub-circular stone fort that includes within its interior a complete free standing clochán as well as a courtyard complex that comprises a rectangular enclosure attached by a passageway to a large clochán at its western limits. Built against the south-west angle of the rectangular enclosure is third clochán. Intra-mural souterrains are recorded within the thickness of the caher with access to the southern souterrain from the largest beehive hut-Clochán 2.

Cahers also known as caiseals comprise the stone variety of the more widespread earthen ringforts that are common throughout Ireland. These monuments were essentially dispersed rural farmsteads of the Early Medieval or Early Christian period.

Overview of excavation of Clochán 2, Caherconnor

Overview of excavation of Clochán 2, Caherconnor