With the exception of the Titanic, one of the world’s greatest underwater maritime archaeological sites lies off Malin Head and in the vicinity of Inishtrahull island. The location contains not only the U-boats that were scuttled and the individual ships torpedoed in wartime. Derry City Council recently decided to lift one of the ships to be placed at a proposed maritime museum at Ebrington but the tragic death of a diver ended this quest, at least for the present. Technically, the operation was not a difficult one but the unfortunate accident halted the operation. A plaque in the graveyard at Inistrahull was erected in memory of the diver.
One of the great losses was the Empire Heritage, a ship of 15,702 tons which carried dozens of Sherman tanks. They lie scattered in a sort of time capsule on the sea bed in relatively shallow water at 228 ft. Underwater photographers have succeeded in mapping the site and dramatic images are available. The ship was travelling in a convoy, HXF 305, which numbered one hundred vessels. (Gordon Duggan of Culdaff recalls counting a convoy of over 70 on one occasion sailing past Inishtrahull.) The Empire Heritage convoy was sailing from New York to Liverpool when it was torpedoed on 8 September 1944 as the war was drawing to a close. There was extensive loss of life.
On Monday night, 21 May 2012 Dan Snow revisits the site in the DIG WW2 series. For Donegal military heritage, the focus is once again on the tourism potential of this world-famous marine resource which remains untapped. With technological advances in marine archaeology, there are exciting possibilities ahead and the day may come when the major wrecks will be lifted to be viewed by the public.