The wreck of the once-great Lusitania is in remarkably poor condition. Considering the fact that the ship sank some three years after the Titanic, and was built to robust Admiralty specifications, it seems to the uninitiated rather surprising that she has deteriorated far more quickly. To some extent, this is due to the violence with which the ship sank: for example, her "forefoot" in the area of her bow was severely damaged as it came into contact with the seafloor; amidships, her hull split open from the stresses involved as she settled. To some extent this decay is also due to the shallower depth of the water that she lies in as opposed to the Titanic.
However, not all of her degradation can be blamed on natural factors. Over the years, salvagers have cut and blasted their way into the ship to retrieve and explore her remains. Many fishing nets have become entangled on the wreck, making any exploration hazardous. Additionally, and perhaps more frightening, the Irish Navy used the wreck for depth charging tests in the 1950's, and unexploded ordnance can still be found resting on and around her.
The upper decks have collapsed and slid off toward the starboard side, while the ship's hull has collapsed on itself, crushing her original width down to barely half of what it was. This destruction is so severe that portions of the vessel's Engine Room are openly exposed.
However, there are places where the original splendor of the liner still shines through. The highly detailed pattern around the cabin windows on the Boat Deck is still quite clear. Her four funnels are mostly gone, but their steam venting pipes still lay on the seabed where they came to rest - a ghostly reminder of the ship's tall profile. Lastly, and perhaps most haunting, the ship's name still stands out proudly on the bow, reminding one that they are exploring the wreck of an Atlantic Liner - one whose life was cut short along with the lives of some twelve-hundred of her passengers and crew.
Further information on the Lusitania's career and sinking, as well as details on the technical points of her construction, can be found in the new book Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography (Spring 2010, Amberley Books). Ordering information is available here.