Remembering the RMS Lusitania

Postcard_Lusitania

Yesterday the 7th May was the 102nd anniversary of the sinking of iconic ocean liner the RMS Lusitania. On her 202nd Atlantic crossing with 1,266 passengers and a crew of 696 (Total:1962) from New York bound for Liverpool. She was torpedoed by the German U-boat, U-20 approximately 11 miles (18 km) off the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse (near Cork, Ireland) in 91 m (300 ft) of water at 14:10 on the 7th May 1915. A total of 1,198 people lost their lives that day.

I was very lucky to be part of a team that carried out a ROV survey and wreck investigation with Gregg Bemis the owner of the wreck. The project was also recorded by the Discovery Channel and was a one hour episode on the show “Treasure Quest”.

It was a very interesting series of ROV dives on this majestic lady. The wreck is well broken up form periods of constant depth charge practice over the decades. I saw un-exploded hedgehog depth charges on the wreck. It is also covered in fishing net and modern net as well.

I was able to carry out some science experiments on the site and I wrote a site survey report. It was a great experience being able to see the Lusitania. If you want to see more then watch the Treasure Quest episode, “Lusitania Revealed”.

If you ever visit the lovely coastal port of Cobh near Cork you can see a memorial to the sinking and nearby a memorial to those perished on that fateful day in the local graveyard.

“The sea is the largest cemetery, and its slumbers sleep without a monument. All other graveyards show symbols of distinction between great and small, rich and poor: but in the ocean cemetery, the king, the clown, the prince and the peasant are alike, undistinguishable.” George Bruce. 1884, St Andrews.

Naughty Treasure Hunters in the news again – but not me……

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4415984/British-treasure-hunters-looking-SS-Minden.html

Interesting story, believe me its always best to get permission and the required licenses first !!!!……….I just happen to be a highly experienced deep water marine archaeologist (last 18 years working with ROVs) Recent contracts have been deep-water salvage contracts, I know my way about a wreck and I know how to keep out of trouble…….. I offer cost effective services from research, project planning, project design, field work, excavation and recovery, specie and ingot recovery and processing, report writing and publications. Lecturing and presentations, plus TV/media experience and much more is on offer. I am STCW 95 and 10 compliant, UK Seaman’s Discharge Book, have US work visa and US crew visa. My marine, offshore and archaeological background make me unique and I have worked on many high-profile shipwrecks such as: HMS Victory, La Marquise de Tourny, SS Republic, SS Central America, SS Gairsoppa, RMS Lusitania, RMS Laconia, Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, various WWI and WWII German U-boats, and ancient Mediterranean wrecks. Check out www.rovarch.com to find out more and get in touch. Please share.

Maritime Fife

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The Kingdom of Fife with the mighty River Tay to the north and the Firth of Forth to the south has a coastline of 117 miles (188 km). Throughout history these two waterways have been busy maritime trade routes. Needless to say, there are many shipwrecks.

As a marine archaeologist and Fife Ambassador it was wonderful to read Michael Alexander’s article in Saturday’s weekend Courier and the Courier Online about the shipwrecks and maritime history of the Forth and the Tay.

https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/scotland/387483/investigating-shipwrecks-courier-country/

Now Spring is here and the evenings are longer and living in fife you are never that far from the coast. Get out and explore the coastline, the coastal towns and harbours of the Kingdom. Maritime Fife is full of interesting facts, stories, people and places.

 

2017 year of History, Heritage & Archaeology

When I am not out at sea investigating deep water shipwrecks I am very much part of my local community and my local region. Not only am I a trustee of St Andrews Harbour Trust, I am a Fife Ambassador. Made into the local news all over Fife. That’s me holding the letter A for archaeology. I am happy and proud to be a Fife Ambassador and during 2017 I will be blogging and tweeting all sorts of interesting stories and facts about the amazing Kingdom of Fife.

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Law’s Close – Kirkcaldy – keeping history and business alive

Fife has a rich and varied maritime heritage. An excellent example can be found in the harbour area of the burgh of Kirkcaldy where one of the best preserved 16th century townhouses is situated. Law’s Close named after a local ship-owning family. A truly remarkable preservation project was carried out to restore the building to its former glory. Of significant maritime interest was the discovery on the second floor of a wall painting of a sailing vessel which may represent the vessel in which Anne of Denmark was brought to Scotland in 1589.

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For me as an archaeologist and a Fife Ambassador, the “icing on the cake” of this wonderful building preservation project is that it is possible to rent office space within the building. Wow, what a place to work and to keep the history of business alive in Kirkcaldy.

For more information visit www.shbt.org.uk

The Golden Fringe of Fife – Elie Ness Light House

Elie Neil WM

It has been a great week of sunny clear skies and wonderful sunrises and sunsets throughout the kingdom. The other evening I was down at Elie Ness Lighthouse to catch a wonderful cloudless sunset. Looking across Largo Bay, the low tide exposing the East Vows rocks and its beacon. This was built in 1846 and the “bird’ cage on top of the beacon was intended as a safe refuge for shipwrecked mariners until they were rescued.

East Vows Beacon

Unusual to see so many oil rigs at anchor in the bay. A sad sign of the downturn in the North Sea oil industry at present. The three semi-submersible drilling units are the Transocean Prospect, the SEDCO 714 and a drilling rig I worked on as a Watchstander back in 1988, the SEDCO 711.

Lighthouses have been a safety aid to mariners for centuries. During bad weather and reduced visibility the lights from lighthouse helped mariners safely navigate their vessels around coasts, islands, rivers and estuaries. During the first decade of the 20th century mariners navigating the Firth of Forth were concerned that during bad weather the lights on the Isle of May and Inchkeith Island were not visible and as Elie Ness was a rock headland it would make sense to build a lighthouse there so that vessels would not come to grief on the rocks and reefs of the headland.

The Northern Lighthouse Board is the General Lighthouse Authority for Scotland and the Isle of Man. It was formed in 1796 as the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses. Its engineer in 1908 was David Alan Stevenson, grandson of Robert Stevenson, who built the Bell Rock Lighthouse and many great lighthouses around Scotland and cousin of the great Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson. Built by James Lawrie Builders, Anstruther, the lighthouse went into service 1st October 1908. With the light evenings as we head towards the Summer Solstice, take advantage and get out and enjoy the wonderful sunsets that bathe the Kingdom of Fife.

 

 

 

Kilminning – Between Crail and Fife Ness

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Your roaming Fife Ambassador took advantage of the good spell of weather recently and has been out and about in the Kingdom. You don’t have to walk or drive far to find interesting places to visit in Fife.

On a walk from Crail to Fife Ness along the Fife Coastal Path you will come across Kilminning Castle, named castle, but really a natural rock stack formation. It lies within Kilminning Coast, Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve. It is in line with the end of the runway of Royal Navy Air Service Crail Aerodrome, HMS Jackdaw, which was in service as a torpedo training school from 1939 to 1947. An airfield here dates from WWI when it was a Royal Flying Corps training depot from 1918-1919. From 1947 to 1949 it became HMS Bruce, a training establishment for boys from the age of 15. From 1952 to 1956 the accommodation was used intermittently by the Black Watch. From 1956 to 1960 it served as JSSL Crail, the Joint Services School for Linguists, a Russian language school which operated as part of the country’s response to the Cold War.

In the area of Kilminning Castle, formerly Kilminning Farm, archaeological investigations revealed the remains of an early rectilinear building and a long cist cemetery which was dedicated to St Minin (9th century). Also in the area is a substantial linear earthwork known as Dane’s Dyke. It is the only surviving linear earthwork in Fife and one of the best preserved in Scotland. It may be prehistoric in origin, it could be associated with Roman Iron Age occupation discovered within the area at Fife Ness and also associated with the Vikings and with King Constantine in the 9th century AD.

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East and west of the large rock stack there have been many groundings and founderings of vessels driven ashore on the rock skellies and reefs during bad weather and storms. The types of vessels lost include schooners, steam passenger ships, steam cargo ships and steam trawlers. I myself have dived a few off these wrecks finding their remains battered and wedged in the kelp covered rocks.

It really is an area worth exploring. You can walk from Crail or Fife Ness or park and walk a short way from the car-park down a road at the end of the small industrial estate at the end of the airfield.

 

The West Sands – St Andrews

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This spell of dry sunny weather has been refreshing. What better way to get rid of the winter cobwebs than a walk along the West Sands at St Andrews.

This uninterrupted 2 mile (3km) sandy low gradient beach with a 30m wide dune zone extends from the Swilcan Burn to the Out Head, (the mouth of the Eden estuary). It skirts and protects the world famous St Andrews Links golf courses.

The West Sands has for centuries been an area of recreation for locals and visitors. Animals grazed the Links, Salmon stake-net fishing provided a living for fishermen. In the days of sail many a cargo vessel run aground on the West Sand, embayed in St Andrews Bay during storms. A great place for bathing, horse riding, dog walking, and the classic British “Day out at the beach”. Motorcar and motorcycle races took place on the sands in the early 20th century, even aircraft operated sight-seeing trips from the sands from time to time. In 1981 the sands served as the set for the opening scene in the movie Chariots of Fire. During the 2012 Olympics Torch relay this was reenacted and the sands were also featured in the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. On many a windy day windsurfers, stunt kites, kite surfers, kite boarders and sand yachts can be seen out at the north end of the sands. Sand yachting was a popular activity in the 1970s on the sands and today a local outdoor activity company Blown Away continues this along with offering many other adventure experiences on land and sea.

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The Links and the West Sands are an internationally important landscape and diverse ecosystem. They are part of the Firth of Tay – Eden Estuary Special Area of Conservation and Marine Protected Area. There are many protected species within the area.

Of historical note: In 1864, following a severe storm a record-breaking specimen of a Bootlace Worm (Lineus longissimus), was washed ashore on the West Sands measuring over 55 m (180 ft) long.

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The effects of climate change, coastal erosion, flooding, and coastal storm surges are a constant threat to the area. In 2010 severe damage to the dunes, flooding of the golf courses and adjacent lands and erosion of the old municipal landfill at the Out Head occurred. A dune stabilisation programme is in operation with areas fenced off to public access whist the Marram Grass has time to stabilise the dunes.

There are many wonderful beaches along the “golden fringe” of the Kingdom of Fife. The West Sands is a must visit.

Das Boot- Epic German WWII U-boat movie

Dass Boot

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Truly one of the world top 100 films. Das Boot is a gripping classic WWII fictional story. It is based on an autobiographical novel by German World War II photographer Lothar-Guenther Buchheim, and tells the story of the German submarine Unterseeboot U-96 a Type VIIC U-boat.

Commissioned on 14 September 1940, U-96 was stationed in Saint Nazaire on the French Atlantic coast as part of the 7th U-boat Flotilla and member of eleven wolfpacks. U-96 had a colourfull career, conducted 11 patrols, sinking 27 ships totalling 180,206 gross register tons (GRT) and damaging four others totalling 33,043 GRT. On 30 March 1945, U-96 was sunk by an American air raid whist in the submarine pens in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. During her entire career, she suffered no casualties to her crew.

The movie, made in 1981, documents the lives of the fearless Kapitänleutnant (Captain) and his inexperienced crew as U-96 patrols the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea in search of Allied vessels. At times the submarine and her crew are both the hunter and the prey. It is well filmed and portrays the cramp and grimy conditions and everyday life in a WWII German U-boat. With an iconic theme track, you like a good war yarn and interested in U-boats….. this movie is a must watch. It is in my top 10.

I was lucky as a deep-water marine archaeologist to have investigated nine German U-boat wrecks in the Western Approaches to the English Channel some years back. Find out more about my life and career at www.rovarch.com