In the depths of the Atlantic Ocean lies the remnants of the SS Laurentic, a British passenger liner that was repurposed as a military transport ship during World War I. This ship is a testament to both the ingenuity of naval engineering and the tragedy of war, and remains one of the most fascinating shipwrecks off the coast of Ireland.
The SS Laurentic was originally built in 1909 and served as a passenger liner between Liverpool and Canada. When World War I broke out, however, the ship was requisitioned by the British government and refitted as a military transport ship, carrying troops and supplies to the front lines. In January 1917, while en route to the Canada, the ship struck two mines off the coast of Ireland and sank Although all crew managed to successfully abandon ship, 354 lives were lost due to hypothermia in the life boats.
The 121 survivers were given a civic reception at the Guildhall in Derry where they each received a 10 shilling note and a packet of cigarettes.
Despite the tragedy of the loss of life, the ship’s sunken remains have become a fascinating underwater archaeological site, attracting divers and historians from around the world. One of the main attrations to the wreck is the vast amount of gold bullion that was on board when the ship sank. The 3,211 bullions of gold, intended to finance the war effort, was stored in the ship’s strongrooms and has been the focus of numerous diving expeditions over the years. Although much of the gold has been recovered, there are still a considerable amount of bars remaining on the seabed, making the SS Laurentic a popular destination for treasure hunters.
Another fascinating aspect of the ship is the many relics and artifacts that have been recovered from its wreck. The ship’s machinery, weapons, and personal effects of the crew and passengers all offer a glimpse into life during World War I, providing valuable insights into the everyday experiences of those who served and sacrificed. One of the ships guns is on public display in Downings, Co. Donegal.
The SS Laurentic is more than just a shipwreck. It’s a testament to the bravery and ingenuity of those who served during World War I and a fascinating underwater museum that offers a glimpse into the past.