+353 66 71 20706
+353 87 24 69800
info@ldarch.ie
Laurence Dunne Archaeology,
3, Lios na Lohart, Ballyvelly,
Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland

American businessman Gregg Bemis agrees to donate Lusitania artifacts to the Irish State following high level meetings in Co Kerry.

County Kerry - 26th April 2012

American businessman Gregg Bemis has agreed to donate a number of important artifacts from the shipwreck of the RMS Lusitania to the Irish state following high level meetings in Co Kerry. The meetings were organized by Tralee based maritime archeologist Laurence Dunne who was responsible for the recovery of the artifacts in August 2011. The artifacts recovered include a telemotor which is part of the steering mechanism, two types of porthole and a directional indicator known as a telltale. Mr. Dunne approached the Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Mr. Jimmy Deenihan to meet with Mr. Bemis to try and ensure that these immensely important historic artifacts remain in Ireland.

The meeting with Minister Deenihan, Gregg Bemis and Laurence Dunne took place in Killarney on Monday night the 23rd April. Mr. Bemis, who has owned the wreck of the Lusitania since 1968, has been an active sportsman all his life and played out-half for Stanford University for four years. Now aged 83 he keeps remarkably fit, playing soccer twice a week in Santa Fe where he lives. Minister Deenihan, himself a famous Gaelic footballer for Kerry, presented Mr. Bemis with a signed copy of his recently published book, My Sporting Life.

The Cunard liner RMS Lusitania, the world’s second most famous shipwreck, was attacked and struck by a torpedo fired by a German submarine U-20 on the 7th May 1915 circa 11 miles from the Old Head of Kinsale, Co. Cork. Tragically the Lusitania sank after only 18 minutes with the loss of 1201 people following a second catastrophic explosion. Mystery surrounds the second explosion with blame cast by both sides at the time. The British claimed that it was due to a second torpedo while Germany in refuting the claim maintained that the cause was due to the explosion of gun-cotton and or other explosive material that the liner was clandestinely carrying. Germany regarded the Lusitania as a legitimate target as the ship was on the British navy list and was also carrying millions of rounds of .303 ammunition. Germany had warned intending passengers in New York, before it sailed on its fateful journey to Liverpool, not to travel as they regarded the Lusitania as a legitimate target. The loss of life of the 128 American passengers in the tragedy is regarded by many as one of the major reasons why the US entered WW1.

The Lusitania sank rapidly by the bow and lies on its starboard side -the side where the torpedo struck and the second explosion occurred. The cause of the second explosion has remained one of modern history’s greatest secrets.

In 2011 a National Geographic sponsored expedition in association with Mr. Bemis was undertaken to try and resolve the historic issues surrounding the sinking. The expedition included, for the first time, a team of Irish and UK archaeologists led by Laurence Dunne originally from Cork but now living in Tralee. In late August 2011 a number of significant artifacts were successfully recovered from the Lusitania and are currently undergoing conservation in Tralee by Laurence Dunne Archaeology.

In the past several months Laurence Dunne has worked with Mr. Bemis and senior staff in the National Monuments Service and the National Museum of Ireland to establish an inclusive dedicated framework with commonality of purpose with regard to the Lusitania and its artifacts.

Following these discussions, Mr. Bemis  agreed to donate a number of the artifacts to Ireland. Furthermore, it has also been agreed  that future research  and investigations on the wreck of  the Lusitania will be undertaken on a collaborative basis and in a spirit of partnership between the relevant State Institutions, Mr. Bemis and his agents.   

After the meetings Laurence Dunne said “I am absolutely delighted with the outcome. It is great news for Ireland! My fervent wish is that these immensely important artifacts will go on display in time for the centenary commemorations of the tragedy now only three short years away.  I would sincerely like to thank Mr. Bemis and Minister Deenihan for their common sense approach to this matter."

Mr. Dunne also expressed his thanks to the State archaeologists from the Underwater Archaeology Unit of the National Monuments Service and the National Museum of Ireland who were directly involved in the process.

Associated media files:

Recovered Lusitania Telemotor (jpg image)

Meeting between Mr. Bemis, Minister Deenihan, Mr. Eoin McGarry and Laurence Dunne (jpg image)

Contact: Laurence Dunne

+353 66 71 20706
info@ldarch.ie
Laurence Dunne Archaeology,
3, Lios na Lohart, Ballyvelly,
Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland

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