Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sub hunters strike gold beneath the waves

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Turks.us
September 29, 2004

A documentary on the voyage of discovery to locate and film the lost submarines of the Gallipoli Campaign is scheduled to be broadcast early next year.

An almost forgotten episode in the epic Gallipoli Campaign is being brought to light by a team of underwater adventurers and historians, with the first dedicated effort to pinpoint the location of the submarines lost in the 15 month long battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies in World War One.

Film producer Savas Karakas, underwater archaeologist Selcuk Kolay and Australian historian Bill Sellars have joined forces to document the role played by the submarines of Britain, France, Australia and Germany in the Gallipoli Campaign.

Though little remembered, submarines played a major role in the campaign, with Allied boats managing to pass through the Dardanelles on at least 13 occasions, with some British subs even attacking Turkish shipping in the Bosphorus, the first time enemy warships had entered Istanbul since its capture in 1453.

The Allied subs had to brave a series of natural and man made obstacles in their fight to enter the Sea of Marmara, swift and swirling currents, mines and heavy nets strung across the strait to ensnare them. During the campaign more than half those that attempted the passage were lost.

Turkey’s ally Germany also had submarines active in the campaign, with one boat, the U21, accounting for two British battleships in a space of three days. Both sides inflicted heavy losses on their opponents, with much of the Turkish mercantile fleet carrying supplies to the Ottoman army on the peninsula being sunk or damaged and a number of Allied vessels also being sent to the bottom. It is the story of these subs, their crews and their victims that Karakas, Kolay and Sellars seek to tell.

Two weeks of intensive work in the waters of the Dardanelles Strait have resulted in the pin pointing of the sites of two British, the E7 and the E15, and three French submarines, the Saphir, Joule and Mariotte, sunk while trying to pass through the heavily defended waterway during the campaign.

Using advanced sonar and side scanning equipment, the team combed the seabed of the Dardanelles, often having to dodge tankers and cargo ships plying the busy waters of the strait.

Thanks to the kind assistance of the Turkish Navy, the team was able to get access to otherwise restricted waters and have the opportunity of a life time, to stand on the wreck of the French submarine, the Mariotte, which lies in shallow waters within the grounds of a naval base.

Producer of the documentary Savas Karakas has a number of major credits to his name, including last year’s two part program on the loss of the Turkish submarine the Dumlapinar, which sank in the Dardanelles in 1953 after a collision with a Norwegian freighter.

Only a handful of the submarine’s crew survived the disaster, one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the modern Turkish navy.

Karakas also produced History in the Depths, a documentary showing the wrecks from the Gallipoli Campaign and which told the story of the naval contribution to the battle.

Selcuk Kolay has won international renown for a series of discoveries of vessels lost in Turkish waters, including the Turkish submarine Atilay; the World War One cruiser the Midilli, the former German warship the Breslau; and the Australian sub the AE2. In recognition of his contribution to Australia’s naval history Selcuk was presented the Order of Australia, that country’s highest civil honour.

Writer Bill Sellars, who lives on the Gallipoli Peninsula, is the historical advisor to the project, having spent years researching the campaign and the activities of the various submarines that took part in it.


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www.schnorkel.blogspot.com

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