A century on, Lusitania wreckage is disintegrating
on 11/07/2012 00:00:00
The programme focuses on the century-old mystery of why the ship sank so fast after being attacked by a German submarine.
The programme, Dark Secrets of the Lusitania, centres around the ship's owner, Gregg Beamis, and his long-held ambition to discover if the liner was ripped apart because the torpedo ignited an illegal cargo of ammunitions.
Many survivors testified that after the U-boat strike on the liner on May 7, 1915, there was a second, more powerful explosion.
In an effort to uncover the truth, divers have accessed previously unexplored areas of the wreck, which lies 20km off the Old Head of Kinsale.
The documentary will analyse what may have caused the second explosion by investigating the wreck more thoroughly, and then enlist the help of a team of scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to put four theories to the test.
Was the ship carrying an illicit cargo of guncotton which exploded? Did a boiler or steamline rupture, or did volatile coal dust or aluminium powder ignite?
The sinking of the Lusitania, with the loss of 1,198 lives, ultimately triggered the US to enter into the First World War.
The documentary will show tense dives into high seas, lab research into four potentially explosive theories, and the haunting recorded testimony of survivors.
Its makers deployed the latest submersible, diving and computer technology.
The documentary makers also employed a number of people from Cork, including Niall Mahoney, the new Cork screen commissioner, who was production manager on the shoot.
He said it was the first time the Government had granted a special licence to dive on the wreck, essentially a war grave.
"This was an incredibly exciting programme to make for everyone. A huge amount of time, money, and resources had been put in to what was really an expedition with an unknown and uncertain outcome, and even the logistics of getting all the equipment and people together from all over the world at the right time was a massive undertaking," Mr Mahoney said.
"We were also combining an incredible array of different teams, from divers to specialist submariners and cutting technicians, and putting them together with a TV documentary crew on a ship for 10 days without any real idea of how they would cope, never mind what we might find."
* Dark Secrets of the Lusitania will be broadcast on the National Geographic channel, on Sunday, Jul 15, at 7pm.