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Lusitania Sinking - AMMUNITION ON BOARD?

AMMUNITION ON BOARD? (Illustration) American History World History Famous Historical Events Disasters World War I

Lusitania rests in about 309 feet of murky water, in the Celtic Sea, off the southern coast of Ireland.  This image depicts James Jarret, the first person to dive and locate the wreck, wearing a 1-atmosphere JS Peress Tritonia dive suit.  Diving to 312 feet, Jarret locates Lusitania (with the help of a recording echo-sounder) in October of 1935.  Image online, courtesy NOAA/OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP).  Click on it for a better view.

 

Did ammunition aboard the ship cause the second explosion? Although the actual manifest for the New York/Liverpool passage has never been made public, thanks to "Lusitania.net" we can examine Lord Mersey's official description of the facts.

The cargo was a general cargo of the ordinary kind, but part of it consisted of a number of cases of cartridges (about 5,000). This ammunition was entered in the manifest. It was stowed well forward in the ship on the orlop and lower decks and about 50 yards away from where the torpedoes struck the ship. There was no other explosive on board.

At the time of the inquiry, of course, Lord Mersey did not have access to Schwieger's notes or testimony. He concluded that the second explosion was caused by a second torpedo. He was incorrect.

Did the presence of 5,000 cases of cartridges in any way contribute to the explosion that destroyed the ship? Dr. Robert Ballard, in a recent diving expedition to the wreck site, has reached some conclusions that implicate coal dust, not cartridges.

Lusitania's munitions cargo hold was empty. Ballard found coal scattered over the site. He concluded the torpedo struck the starboard coal bins, after it had penetrated the ship's starboard side, instantly beginning a chain of fatal events.

Sparks from the torpedo strike may have ignited coal powder. And the ignited coal powder, in Ballard's judgment, caused the fatal explosion. His fascinating account is detailed in Ghost Liners and Exploring the Lusitania as well as in a PBS documentary.

While both sides were fighting on land and sinking ships at sea, what were women and children doing and thinking? How were their daily lives impacted by the Great War?

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: May 19, 2015


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"AMMUNITION ON BOARD?" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2004. Nov 15, 2018.
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