Life Buoy from the Lusitania

What is the life buoy from a luxury ocean liner doing in the National Museum? There's more to this story than meets the eye...

The Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank off the Irish coast on 7th May 1915. The life buoy was picked up by the Dublin fishing trawler, the Dean Swift, a fortnight after the disaster. The oar (from a lifeboat) was washed up on a beach off the west coast of Co. Clare in August 1915 and then donated to the Museum. The Lusitania, owned by the Cunard line, was one of the largest, fastest and most luxurious ocean liners in the world in 1915. It was built in Scotland. It had a capacity of 2,000 people and a crew of 850. On 1st May 1915, the Lusitania set off on its maiden (first) voyage from New York to Liverpool, a journey that would take seven days crossing the Atlantic. The cost of a one-way ticket in first class was $4,000 at a time when the average wage was $20 a week.

Where is the Lusitania now?

The wreck lies approximately 7 miles (11 km) off the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse in 300 feet (91 m) of water. Unlike the Titanic which took more than two hours to sink, the Lusitania went down in just 18 minutes. There were sufficient numbers of lifeboats, but the launching procedure was chaotic because the crew were not very experienced. Nearly 1,200 people lost their lives in the disaster. Although it was spring, the water was still cold, and many people died from exposure.

From: Scotland

Date: 1915

Made of: Canvas

Find it in the Museum: Out of Storage Exhibition, first floor