'Titanic' rescue ship yields up its treasures

Almost a century after it steamed to the rescue of the stricken Titanic, saving the lives of more than 700 stranded passengers, and 89 years after it was sunk, the wreckage of the RMS Carpathia has finally been explored, yielding precious artefacts.

An amateur dive team performed a record-breaking feat of underwater archaeology to salvage objects such as the telegraph machine used on the liner to communicate between the bridge and the engine room. They also brought up crockery bearing the insignia of the ship. The divers' haul has been handed over to the owners of the wreck of the Titanic, and will be included in a touring exhibition that will visit London next year.

The dive was led by a Manchester fireman, Ric Waring, whose 10-strong Dive Carpathia group spent an unprecedented 15 hours at depths of up to 160 metres investigating the bows of the liner, which lies 200 miles off the Cork coast and 250 miles from Plymouth.

The liner was sunk by a German U-boat on 17 July 1918 while travelling as part of a convoy from Liverpool to Boston. Although the wreck was discovered by the American author and diver Clive Cussler in 1999, the depth at which the ship rests, its location far from shore, and the area's unpredictable weather conditions made it difficult for divers to explore. Only four divers have ever explored the Carpathia, surveying it for just 15 minutes each.

The Dive Carpathia team was made up of divers from the UK, Italy and Germany. Among the group was Jeff Cornish, a sales director in a venture capital firm, who spotted the telegraph machine on his very first dive.

"My most daunting moment, after finding the telegraph on the bridge, was trying to find my way back to the shot-line to get up to the surface. It was dark and I was tired – it took some effort getting the 40kg telegraph into the lift bag," Mr Cornish said.

Many more artefacts were discovered over the following two days, but plans to catch the expedition on film using underwater cameras were less successful. "Unfortunately we weren't able to capture as much footage as we'd planned, as some of our equipment buckled under the pressure," Mr Cornish explained.

In addition to making substantial historic finds, the explorations of the Dive Carpathia team also managed to beat the UK record for the deepest wreck dive, which previously stood at 135 metres.

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