For the first time since the German gun-running ship 'The Aud' was scuttled in April 1916, an Irish underwater archaeological team captured footage of the wreckage lying on the bottom of Cork Harbour.
The Aud, formerly the SS Libau was originally a steam cargo transport built for the Wilson Line of Hull in England in 1907. When World War One broke out it was known as the SS Castro for the Wilson shipping company and was captured by the German navy in the Keil Canal. The vessel was subsequently disguised as a Norwegian steamer the Aud to transport 20,000 rifles, one million rounds of ammunition and three machine guns for the planned Easter Rising of 1916.
The Aud arrived off the Kerry coast on 20 April 1916 but due to communication problems, it was unsuccessful in landing the cargo in Fenit Harbour as planned. The Aud had been tracked by the Royal Navy for the entire journey to Ireland. The ship was intercepted by the British and taken to Cork Harbour where on 22 April 1916, the captain of the vessel Karl Spindler scuttled the ship six rather than have it fall into enemy hands.
Kate Lynch was fourteen years old when the Aud tried to land a cargo of arms she recalls the events at Fenit.
Meanwhile, Sir Roger Casement, who had negotiated the arms shipment with Germany, arrived by German U-Boat to Banna Strand expecting to meet the Aud. He was subsequently arrested, tried for treason and executed on 3 August 1916.
For the first time since 1916, the wreck of the Aud is being inspected by members of the National Monuments Service diving unit and a 12 member team from the Irish Underwater Archaeological Research Trust (IUART). Colin Breen National Monuments Office says their aim is to
Look at the wreck on the seabed, to try and assess its state, to try and see if it is undergoing active erosion, and to see if we can actually do anything to stop that erosion, and to protect the site in situ on the seabed.
IUART projects officer Andre Thoma explains their task is difficult as the divers can only spend 12 minutes at a time down at the wreck before having to resurface. He describes some of the team’s discoveries noting
The seabed is still littered with ammunition.
He explains that bombing and depth charging by the British during World War Two and natural erosion have taken a toll on the wreck.
But for a ship that has gone through all that, it is still actually quite intact.
This episode of ‘Nationwide’ was broadcast on 15 August 1997. The reporter is Tom MacSweeney.