Technical diving group Darkstar investigated and photographed the WW1 wreck of the SS Libourne, which was carrying 10,000 bottles of wine and liquor.
A team of British experienced technical divers Darkstar conducted an exploration of the wreck of the steamer Libourne. The vessel has long aroused the interest of many people, among others because of its cargo. At the time of the sinking, the ship was carrying 10,000 bottles of wines and liqueurs.
Although there had been other divers on the wreck identified in 2015, no one had taken photographic documentation until now. This one aspect alone made it worthwhile to make this rather difficult dive in the cold waters of Cornwall. Probably not without significance was also the desire to get acquainted with the condition of the cargo carried.
I love having the opportunity to photograph wrecks that hardly anyone else gets to see – it’s a real privilege and makes all the effort worthwhile – said Dominic Robinson of the Darkstar group.
The WWI wreck of the SS Libourne lies at a depth of 85m, approximately 15 Mm off the coast of Cornwall. The vessel was sunk near the Lizard Peninsula by the German submarine U-54, commanded by Hellmuth von Rockteschell. This took place on 29 September 1918, six weeks before the end of hostilities. The attack resulted in the death of 3 of the 33 crew members of the steamer.
The British vessel belonged to the Moss Steamship Co. and was an armed merchant ship. At the time of the sinking SS Libourne was sailing in an escorted convoy of five vessels from Bordeaux to Liverpool. The ships delivered coal to France, while on the return journey the holds of the SS Libourne contained over 10,000 bottles of wine and liqueurs, as well as brandy and champagne.
The wreck is far from shore, so getting to it depended on good weather, which luckily we had. There were many bottles visible on the bottom, but we felt that there were many more under the sand and parts of the wreck – Robinson concluded.
According to members of the Darkstar group, the cargo of alcohol had a good chance of surviving in the dark and cold waters. This would not be the first time, as in the past divers have recovered precious liquor from wrecks after a much longer period of time. Not only did they turn out to be drinkable, but in addition they achieved dizzying sums at auction.
Once excavated, the cargo of the SS Libourne could represent a considerable fortune, but this is unlikely to happen. Historic England has refused to grant permission to extract anything from the wreck. Officials justified their decision on the grounds that it would contravene the 2021 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage. Interestingly, the UK is not one of the countries that have signed the convention, yet it abides by its provisions.
Photo Dominic Robinson / Darkstar
Without a doubt, in 2021 one of the most important diving events in Poland was the expedition to the wreck of the steamer SS Karlsruhe. You will read more about it in the 19th issue the DIVERS24 quarterly magazine! The digital version of the magazine is available free of charge, while the printed version you can buy in our online shop.
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