Famed merchant ship sunk by German torpedo in World War I found in Irish Sea

Photo: Bangor University

Researchers at Bangor University in the UK have identified a shipwreck lying at the bottom of the Irish Sea as a merchant vessel that sank after it was fatally struck by a torpedo during the closing weeks of World War I.

With the aid of multi-beam sonar on the research vessel Prince Madog, the researchers have located the wreckage of the steamship Mesaba, which became known for sending an iceberg warning to the ill-fated ocean liner Titanic before it sank on April 15, 1912.

The message was received but never reached Titanic‘s bridge. Later that night, the ship hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage, taking 1,500 lives.

Mesaba continued as a merchant ship over the next six years before being torpedoed by a German U-boat whilst in convoy on September 1, 1918. The captain and 19 other crewmembers were lost.

Mesaba was one among 273 shipwrecks lying in 7,500 square miles (19,424 square kilometres) of Irish Sea that was scanned and cross-referenced against the UK Hydrographic Office’s database of wrecks and other sources. It was thought that 101 wrecks were unidentified, but the number of newly identified wrecks was far higher, as many, Mesaba included, had been wrongly identified in the past.

Details of all the wrecks have been published in a new book, Echoes from the Deep by Dr Innes McCartney of Bangor University, conducted under a Leverhulme Fellowship while at Bournemouth University.

Dr McCartney said Prince Madog’s unique sonar capabilities has enabled the researchers to develop a relatively low-cost means of examining the wrecks. This allowed the team to connect this back to the historical information without costly physical interaction with each site.

Dr Michael Roberts, who led the sonar surveys at the University’s School of Ocean Sciences, explained that the university has also been examining these wreck sites to better understand how objects on the seabed interact with physical and biological processes, which in turn can help scientists support the development and growth of the marine energy sector.

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