Questions Linger After Lusitania Telegraph Is Recovered

Why did the ship sink so fast?
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2017 3:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – When the R.M.S. Lusitania was struck by a German torpedo on May 7, 1915, as it sailed from New York to Liverpool, a mysterious second explosion rocked the British luxury liner from deep within and the vessel sank in just 18 minutes—far faster than, say, the nearly three hours it took for the Titanic to sink. Nearly 1,200 people died, including more than 100 Americans. For years, divers have searched for answers amid the wreckage, but so far no find has proven what caused the second explosion or confirmed one of the prevailing theories: that munitions for the British were secretly on board and responsible for the blast, reports the New York Times. Now, searching the wreckage off the southern coast of Ireland, divers have found the ship's telegraph, which was used to send messages from the bridge to the engine room, reports Marine Technology News.

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The minister of the Ireland Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht calls the telegraph an "important piece of the Lusitania" that is "undamaged and in excellent condition." And while it's possible the telegraph could reveal the final orders the ship's captain gave, she adds that it is "unlikely" to provide any other answers. British author and historian Diana Preston tells the Times that the ship's sinking so incensed the US and British public that it was often used in anti-German propaganda; the incident was partially responsible for pushing the US into World War I. Her own theory is more benign—that the impact of cold North Atlantic water burst the ship's steam lines. "In spite of accusations and counter accusations, nobody really knew," she adds. For now at least, the mystery persists. (This ship sank off the coast of California just two years later.)

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