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Sinking of the Lusitania

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robin kendrick

on 14 March 2011

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Transcript of Sinking of the Lusitania

Sinking of the Lusitania U-boats are military submarines operated by Germany. II. Although in theory U-boats could have been useful fleet weapons against enemy naval warships, in practice they were most effectively used in an economic warfare role, enforcing a naval blockade against enemy shipping. The primary targets of the U-boat campaigns in both wars were the merchant convoys bringing supplies from the British Empire and the United States to the islands of Great Britain. Under the instructions given to U-boat captains, they could sink merchant ships, even potentially neutral ones, without warning. A statement by the U.S. Government, holding Germany "strictly accountable" for any loss of American lives, made no material difference. As the Lusitania had sailed from New York, she had on board American civilians and in 1915 America was neutral in World War One. As she left New York, the dock was crowded with news reporters as New York newspapers had carried an advert in them paid for by the German Embassy that any ship that sailed into the "European War Zone" was a potential target for German submarines. Some newspapers printed the warning directly next to Cunard's list of departure dates.

Regardless of this, the Cunard liner was packed with passengers. Many had received an anonymous telegram advising them not to travel but the ship was billed by Cunard as the "fastest and largest steamer now in the Atlantic service" and it was generally believed that the Lusitania had the power to outpace any ship above or below the water. Many of the passengers came to the simple conclusion that a luxury liner simply was not a legitimate target of the Germans as it had no military value. Any passenger who had doubts was given further confidence when many famous and rich people boarded. It was assumed that the likes of multi-millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt and wine merchant George "Champagne King" Kessler and the like would have had access to information from the highest of sources to warn them if danger really did exist.

In all, there were about 15 German U boats in the "European War Zone" - the zone that the Lusitania was about to move into. U20 had left its base at Emden on April 31st 1915. In its journey to the Atlantic it had attacked a Danish merchant ship but let it go once its Danish flag had been spotted. An old three-masted schooner was also attacked by U20; its crew was allowed to escape in their life rafts and then the schooner was sunk. But Schwieger did not consider this 'action' as he and his crew would have appreciated.
Kapitänleutnant Walther Schweiger, made a detailed sweep of the horizon as the ship started for home, running at high speed on the surface. Around noon, far ahead and on a converging course, he sighted a large cloud of smoke. After diving he watched through his periscope as a forest of masts and funnels came up over the horizon, so many he at first thought it was two ships. It was the Cunard passenger liner Lusitania making her monthly eastbound crossing from New York to Liverpool.

The next day, May 7th, the ship's captain, Captain Turner, became concerned as he could see no other ship ahead of him - more especially, he was concerned that he could see no protective naval ships. It was as if all other ships had cleared the waters as a result of the Admiralty's warning.
The first torpedo was fired at 14.09. At 14.10, Schwieger noted in his log:

"Shot hits starboard side right behind bridge. An unusually heavy detonation follows with a strong explosion cloud..."
Schwieger noted later.

"…when the torpedo struck the ship…Where I stood on deck the shock of the impact was not severe; it was a heavy, rather muffled sound, but the good ship trembled for a moment under the force of the blow; a second explosion quickly followed, but I do not think it was a second torpedo, for the sound was quite different; it was more likely a boiler in the engine room." Charles E. Lauriat. Notice!
Travellers intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.

Imperial German Embassy
Washington, D. C., April 22, 1915

- A passenger vessel on transatlantic service, largest vessel, left New
York to Liverpool on May 1st, 1915, 750 ft. long, weighed 32,500 tons, capable of 26 knots
-1,959 passengers, 159 were Americans
-Bombed on May 7, 1915 by a u-boat, it was ten miles from the coast of
Ireland, this u-boat had already sunk 2 liners and only had 2 torpedoes left
-First torpedo fired at 700 meters away
-Sank in 18 minutes, there was a 2nd explosion (munitions for British effort was hidden in vessel as cargo) - It made the relationship between Germany and the United States tenser and made the U.S lean more on to joining the fight.
-It didn't exactly bring the US to war because it took two more years for the US to declare war on Germany
-Americans were overwhelmed after knowing that 159 Americans died because up to that day it was the largest number of Americans dying
-Many Americans protested to go to war after the sinking of the
Lusitania because they didn't think it was necessary for Germany to bomb ships that weren't harming them in any way Why? The Lusitania Effects Merchant ships that entered the war zone were at risk of being attacked. They were sunk to stop trade between rival countries. America deemed Germans use of U-boats immoral. The purpose of them was to sink merchant ships , but to do so one must surprise attack an enemy ship without warning to attain a succesful hit. THE END U-boats "largest ship in the world" Enlgish postcard of the lusitania, 1915 advertising its size and luxury. WWI German U-20 Capt. Will Turner had received three messages warning of submarine activity in his path. Proceeding at a leisurely 15 knots (half her top speed) the great liner steered a straight course despite Admiralty warnings to zigzag in the presence of submarines. The torpedo struck; its detonation was immediately followed by a massive internal explosion which sank her in less than 20 minutes. The fatal blow is thought by Robert Ballard to be ignition of coal dust in a nearly-empty fuel bunker, blowing out the ship's bottom.


Inrushing seawater was trapped on the starboard side by the longitudinal bulkheads, giving the ship a heinous list that made it virtually impossible to launch boats successfully. The Lusitania Incident and other evidences of German bad faith were important components in the decision to join the war on the Kaiser 2 years later.
The Lusitania docked at Liverpool, date unknown. Source: http://www.maritimequest.com/liners/lusitania_page_4.htm.
Map showing Lusitania and U-20 paths to confrontation. Source: https://warntheclassroom.wikispaces.com/file/view/...; accessed June 22, 2009.

Artist’s painting of dining room of the Lusitania. Source: http://www.ocean-liner.com/wp-content/uploads/lusitania-dining-1441.jpg; accessed June 22, 2009.
One of three warnings sent to the Lusitania from the German Embassy,1915. Doomed: A contemporary view of the sinking of the Lusitania off Ireland in May 1915 Lusitania hit by German U-20. 1915 May 7th.http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://wikispaces.psu.edu/download/attachments/ The Daily Mirror. 1915. http://www.lusitania.net/memorbilia.html The New York Times. May 8th 1915 http://www.lpusd.k12.ca.us/rm1/online/hotpotatoestav/6-1d.htm Lusitania Graves. 1915.http://thesubreport.com/blog/?m=200806 WW1, LUSITANIA and WW2 MEMORIAL,ST JAMES' CHURCH WEST DERBY LIVERPOOL. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jackamanfan/4158034726/ multi-millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt wine merchant George "Champagne King" Kessler Description George Kessler.jpg
English: George Kessler (1862-1923), German-American urban planner & landscape architect
Date n.d. (ca. 1910)

Source Landmarks Association of St. Louis http://www.landmarks-stl.org/images/uploads/architects/kesslerportrait.jpg

Author unidentified photographer

"2 pm Straight ahead the 4 funnels and 3 masts of a steamer with a course at right angles to ours. . . Ship is made out to be a large passenger liner.

3:05 pm Went to 11m and ran at high speed on a course converging with that of the steamer, in hopes that it would change course to starboard along the Irish Coast.The steamer turned to starboard, headed for Queenstown and thus made it possible to approach for a shot. Ran at high speed till 3 pm in order to secure an advantageous position.

3:10 pm Clear bow shot at 700 m. . . angle of intersection 90 [degrees] estimated speed 22 nautical miles.Shot struck starboard side close behind the bridge. An extraordinary heavy detonation followed, with a very large cloud of smoke (far above the front funnel). A second explosion must have followed that of the torpedo (boiler or coal or powder?). The superstructure above the point of impact and the bridge were torn apart; fire broke out; light smoke veiled the high bridge. The ship stopped immediately and quickly listed sharply to starboard, sinking deeper by the head at the same time. Great confusion arose on the ship; some of the boats were swung clear and lowered into the water. Many people must have lost their heads; several boats loaded with people rushed downward, struck the water bow or stern first and filled at once.On the port side, because of the sloping position, fewer boats were swung clear than on the starboard side.The ship blew off steam; at the bow the name “Lusitania” in golden letters was visible. It was running 20 nautical miles.

3:25 pm Since it seemed as if the steamer could only remain above water for a short time, went to 24m. and ran toward the Sea. Nor could I have fired a second torpedo into this swarm of people who were trying to save themselves.

4:15 pm Went to 11m and took a look around. In the distance straight ahead a number of life-boats were moving; nothing more was to be seen of the Lusitania. The wreck must lie 14 nautical miles from the Old Head of Kinsale light-house, at an angle of 358 degrees to the right of it, in 90m of water (27 nautical miles from Queenstown) 51 degrees 22’ 6” N and 8 degrees 31’ W. The land and the lighthouse could be seen very plainly.

4:20 pm When taking a look around, a large steamer was in sight ahead on the port side, with course laid for Fastnet Rock. Tried to get ahead at high speed, so as to get a stern shot. . .

5:08 pm Conditions for shot very favorable: no possibility of missing if torpedo kept its course. Torpedo did not strike. Since the telescope was cut off for some time after this shot the cause of failure could not be determined. . . The steamer or freighter was of the Cunard Line.

6:15 pm . . . It is remarkable that there is so much traffic on this particular day, although two large steamers were sunk the day before south of George’s Channel. It is also inexplicable that the Lusitania was not sent through the North Channel."

Captain Schwieger kept a diary of the voyage. We join his story as he first catches sight of the Lusitania in the early afternoon of May 7, 1915 http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/lusitania.htm
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