Death of “Audacious”

Late afternoon watching my favorite show on Discovery Channel “Mighty Ships”, I come a cross an interesting episode of death beneath the sea.. Off the north coast of Ireland, deep-sea divers discover the wreck of a massive battleship. She is the British super dreadnought, HMS Audacious, which sank in the early days of the First World War. For ninety years she has lain unknown and undisturbed. Missed by salvers and too deep for normal scuba diving, only now is she giving up her secrets. The divers find evidence of a catastrophic explosion, strewing wreckage across the seabed, and seek the cause. At 170 feet, the colossal HMS Audacious comes into view, every bit as spectacular as anyone would imagine!

HMS Audacious

The HMS Audacious


HMS Audacious

Audacious was an evolution of a design first seen in 1906 that rendered all other battleships obsolete, and fueled the arms race between Great Britain and Germany. The design principles of these mighty ships could still be seen in the last of the great battleships, such as the USS Missouri and Iowa, in action until the early 1990s.

The British Naval High Command was deeply traumatized by the event. It was a bad time to lose such a high profile and important ship, and they ordered a complete news blackout. The Audacious’ crew, all of whom survive the sinking, are sworn to secrecy and reassigned. The Olympic was interned and searched from top to bottom for any photographs that might betray the event. The Navy even went to the extent of building a dummy warship to keep up the pretense the Audacious is still afloat.

“The Germans must never know the vulnerability of British battleships”– After the war the authorities came clean, but such was the blanket of secrecy that it took decades to finally identify and locate her.

Dropping slowly in formation toward a huge cylindrical shape beneath, measuring 45 feet across was the giant barbette that protected one of the five main gun turrets with 10 inches of armor. Despite those defenses, Audacious met its end in October 1914 at the hands of a German ocean liner.

HMS Audacious

Side Scan image of wreck of HMS Audacious. Note guns of B turret on left hand side

HMS Audacious

Multi-beam image of wreck of HMS Audacious.

Audacious struck a mine laid by the SS Berlin; despite attempts to tow the ship to safety, a massive explosion sent it to the seabed 215 feet below. The explosion blew of the bow with such force that it now lies some distance away; also in that debris field we find a solitary 4-inch secondary gun, one of 16 designed to engage fast, maneuverable attack boats.

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Diving with a helium-rich tri-mix ensures clear heads; navigation proves easy with more than 100 feet of visibility. This 23,400-ton ship had 10 main guns — within two years of Audacious’ loss, the true horror of dreadnought-to-dreadnought combat was seen as its sister ships went toe-to-toe with the German fleet at the North Sea Battle of Jutland, of Denmark. You can see the main hull lying upside down as a common way for battleships to settle due to the weight of guns and deck armor. Hours of decompression awaits divers before heading back to surface as Audacious fades into the distance, but the memories of diving on this warship of revolutionary design won’t be forgotten by many.

HMS Audacious

HMS Audacious Main Guns – Steve Jones

HMS Audacious

HMS Audacious

HMS Audacious

Diver on 13.5inch guns from HMS Audacious- Barry McGill/MSP

HMS Audacious

HMS Audacious

Divers around barbette of HMS Audacious – Barry McGill/MSP

HMS Audacious

Today expedition’s divers have access to modern scanning techniques, expert on board historians and analysts to help reveal how one of the world’s most advanced ships was brought down by just one blow, a chance event that ushered in a perilous new chapter in naval warfare and changed the course of history.

HMS Audacious Ship Wreck Location

HMS Audacious Ship Wreck Location



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