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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Engine telegraph recovered from Lusitania wreck

From The Smithsonian

Last week, the Irish Ministry of Culture and Heritage confirmed that divers have recovered the main ship's telegraph from the RMS Lusitania, the Cunard ocean liner sunk by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915. The sinking of the ship in Irish waters on a journey from New York to Liverpool caused the death of 1,198 people, including 114 Americans. The sinking became a rallying cry for the United Kingdom and helped push the U.S. toward military involvement in World War I.
Ronan McGreevy at The Irish Times reports that the telegraph is in excellent condition. Another telegraph from the ship was recovered in October 2016. These are not the tappity-tap-tap type of telegraphs depicted in old movies. Instead they were engine-order telegraphs used  to send commands to the engine room. Officers on the bridge would move the telegraph lever to an order on a dial such as “full ahead” or “half astern.” That would also move the dial in the engine room and ring a bell alerting the engine crew to adjust the ship’s course.
This wasn’t the first time that divers have tried to recover this telegraph. According to the Press Association, in the summer of 2016 an attempt to use a lift bag to raise the artifact to the surface failed, and the telegraph fell back to the 270-foot seabed. That attempt was criticized since it was not supervised by an archaeologist, which is the usual protocol when working on the site which is considered a protected war grave. During the latest mission, divers were able to relocate the telegraph and successfully use air bags to float it to the surface.
While there was some speculation that the telegraph would shine some light on the sinking of the Lusitania, McGreevy reports that there is not much information to be gleaned. The ship was hit by German torpedoes, but there were reports that after the initial hit, a second explosion occurred, causing the massive liner to sink in just 18 minutes.

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