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Eric Sauder

Nov 12, 2000
Greg asked the $1 million question: "Is it true that the famous film of Lusitania Leaving New York was filmed on May 1, 1915?"

Here's a relevant quote from an article I wrote several years ago about whether Lusitania's funnels were painted black for the final voyage:

"Next to be considered is the well-known film footage which shows Lusitania backing away from Pier 54 in New York that purports to be her 'final departure.' There was good reason to suspect that it wasn't the last voyage at all. As is well known, many photos and films of the ship obviously in earlier days (even on her maiden voyage) have often been passed off as 'the last voyage' for dramatic effect and even profit.

*huge snip*

"Further motion picture footage of Lusitania turning in mid-river and moving downstream, supposedly taken the same day as that mentioned earlier, is of little help since the ship is too far away and one can barely make out any color difference in many areas of the ship. If this film were to be of any help, it must be determined at what point in Lusitania's career it was taken.

"Because of changes in the lifeboat arrangement and various structural alterations made to Lusitania after August of 1914, there can be no doubt that the film footage is from her last few months of service. We also know from existing evidence that it could not have been taken between August and November, 1914. The film clearly shows a light-painted superstructure and not the dark 'war grey' that is plainly seen in the Illustrated London News photos….

"Since the film must have been taken after November, 1914, a closer examination reveals clues that narrow down the date even further. For example, noting the water level against the pilings under Pier 56, opposite the cameraman, it is definitely very near high tide. A quick check of the tide charts published in The New York Times each day tells us that for Lusitania's monthly sailings between December, 1914, and May, 1915, it was near high tide only twice -- April and May. The December, January, February, and March sailings were closer to low tide.

"Another clue in the film is that lying at Pier 56 immediately next to Lusitania is what appears to be a Cunard cargo ship. But, as of this writing, the identity of the ship remains a mystery since all that can be seen of her is a single funnel, a few small ventilators, and some masts. Several ships could match this broad description. If the identity of the other ship were known, it would without a doubt narrow the date of the film to one sailing. For the moment, however, this avenue is a dead end."

Is it the last voyage? Can't say for sure, but there's a 50/50 chance. I'd sure like to think it is, though....

Eric Sauder

Brian Meister

Mar 19, 1999

Brilliant work on narrowing down the details
on the tides and that film. A question: Could
it possibly be the Mauretania. I freely admit
that I have not studied the deck plans of
these two sisters as I have their WSL rivals,
and ask the question strictly as information
for myself. What made these two differ from
one another?

Bill Sauder

Nov 14, 2000

The chances of the film being Mauretania are zero. Mauretania used conventional cowlheads, Lusitania had low-profile cowls. M had a very rounded deckhouse front, L was a very flat elipse. M Boat deck was 36" wider than on L, thus M's after davits are mounted thru the boat deck, all of L's are mounted over the side.

And the name Lusitania shows up very clearly on the film footage.

Bill Sauder

Dave Hudson

Apr 25, 2001
"The chances of the film being Mauretania are zero."

I don't know, Bill. The two sisters could have always been switched. I've been reading some books and this one guy named Gardiner seems pretty on the ball. It would have been only too easy to give two sisters new identities.

The truth is out there...


Jim Kalafus

Dec 3, 2000
There is also that footage, used in several documentaries, which Hoehling claimed is of Charles and Mary Plamondon, and their son, Ambrose, paying a cab driver and preparing to enter the pier. If it were possible to confirm that the family is, in fact, the Plamondons, and that all of the footage was originally used in the same newsreel, and not compiled later from several sources, it would certainly weigh in favor of the departure footage being authentic to May 1, 1915.
Apr 24, 2002
i have just purchased a film called the "sinking of the Lusitania" i haven't been able to watch it yet as its on 16mm film and i'm transferring it onto video but can anyone help?
on the case it has Films Incorporated on it based in Wilmette Illinois and was shown at Canyon View Jr High. Can anyone tell me how old it is and when it was made


Apr 23, 2002
I was looking at this film again and I wondered if the 3 large funnels across the River Hudson were that of the Imperator / Vaterland?
Were they in the port on May 1?
Could this aid in trying to identify if it could be the last sailing of Lusitania?
Apr 16, 2002
You say that the name Lusitania is visible in the footage? Well, I thought that it had been painted over to avoid identification by German U-Boats! Could be wrong though.

Scott R. Andrews


The Vaterland was interned at the HAPAG piers across the Hudson in Hoboken since August, 1914. The Imperator spent the war idled in Hamburg.


Scott Andrews
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