Israeli Lost Sub Dakar Found

Expert: Collision probably sank Israeli submarine in '68

The crew enters the Dakar for its ill-fated maiden voyage as an Israeli vessel, in 1968

June 1, 1999
Web posted at: 11:01 p.m. EDT (0301 GMT)


JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Evidence from the Mediterranean grave of the Israeli submarine "Dakar" reveals that the vessel sunk more the 30 years ago after a collision with a large ship, a naval expert said Tuesday.

The Dakar was found last week by U.S. and Israeli salvage crews about 480 kilometers (300 miles) off the Israeli coast, in an area between the islands of Crete and Cyprus.

"The wreckage of the conning tower is really distorted and torn as though something struck it a glancing blow and sailed on without noticing," said retired Israeli naval Capt. Doron Amir.

When the Dakar disappeared during its maiden voyage as an Israeli vessel in 1968, there was speculation it was sunk by the Egyptian navy or the Soviet Union.

The Israeli government hoped to solve the mystery of the missing sub by enlisting the help of U.S. experts. The wreckage was found last week nearly 3 kilometers (2 miles) below the surface with the same equipment used to locate the Titanic.

The submarine was originally built in 1945 for the British navy. Although it was refitted, its captain complained of mechanical problems during the voyage from Portsmouth, England, to Israel.

Israel's Channel Two television aired an animated reconstruction of the presumed collision with a ship on Monday.

An instrument panel from the wreckage, which lies 2 miles (3 km) beneath the surface of the Mediterranean   

"The film, based on the photographic evidence, shows that the submarine discerned the approaching ship late, going into a dive in an effort to avoid a collision," said military correspondent Roni Daniel.

He added that if the dive had started five to eight seconds earlier, the Dakar might have avoided the deadly collision.

Amir cautioned that the investigation is still not complete, but said that all the evidence points to a collision.

Hoping to give her father a traditional Jewish burial, a daughter of one of the Dakar's 69 crew members appealed to the military on Monday to recover remains from the sunken hull.

But officials have said that the wreckage is too deep for divers to carry out a salvage mission.

For now, mourners will continue to light 69 candles above 69 plaques at a memorial built in Israel for the Dakar.

The Mystery of the Dakar

Dateline: 06/07/99


The Dakar submarine left a British port in January, 1968, never to reach its destination - a naval base in Israel. The Dakar was a World War II vintage submarine, purchased from Britain by Israel. In 1968, the ship had undergone a total refitting and upgrading in Portsmouth, and was on her way home to rejoin the Navy. After reporting to Israel as she entered the Mediterranean, contact was lost on January 24, 1968.

After two weeks of an unsuccessful search, the Dakar, with its crew of 69 men, was declared lost with all hands on board. It was unknown at the time where the submarine was located, or if it had sunk due to mechanical failure or because it had been attacked by Egyptian or Russian naval forces.

This week the Dakar was found. After over 30 years of repeated searches, the Israeli Navy had signed an agreement with Nauticus, an American corporation with significant experience in conducting underwater searches, to conduct another search for the Dakar. The latest technological methods were used, and the Dakar was discovered at a depth of 2,900 meters, on the Mediterranean floor between Crete and Cyprus, on the sub's original sailing plan.

Why did it take so long to locate the Dakar? At the time of the submarine's disappearance, technology could not provide the means to search the Mediterranean floor that exist today. A year after the Dakar disappeared, one of the sub's emergency buoys was discovered just off the Egyptian coast at Khan Yunis. This led to speculation that the Egyptians had sunk the sub. After the Peace Treaty was signed with Egypt, efforts were made to search for the submarine in Egyptian waters. Only in recent years did the Israeli Navy, and the hired American experts, return to the sub's original sailing plan to search in the sea off the coast of Crete.

Why did the Dakar sink? This question has been left unanswered since the sub's disappearance, and only now the mystery may be finally solved. The submarine was found broken into three large pieces, with additional smaller pieces scattered in a 200-meter radius around the main part. After naval experts viewed the sub's remains on video camera, tentative conclusions were reached. The Dakar was not sunk by enemy forces - there were no signs of the external damage that this would have caused. The broken sub seemed to lead to the conclusion that the Dakar had sunk as a result of a collision - probably with a passing cargo ship. If this had happened, the damaged sub would have tried to surface, but the water filling it would have caused it to quickly sink to the bottom of the sea.

Should the Dakar be raised? The chief rabbi of the I.D.F. said that Halacha dictates that the Dakar's crew's remains be brought home for a Jewish funeral. The families of the crew are divided whether or not efforts be made to recover the submarine. Raising the sunken sub may be technically feasible, even at the Dakar's depth. Experts say that the crew's remains could be recovered, and the bodies could be identified based on dental and other records. But, what would happen if not all were recovered? Jewish law has made provisions in the past to recognize a location at sea as the grave of those who went down with a ship. Does the Dakar have to be raised?

An editorial in Ha'aretz on June 1st says otherwise:


To date, the government of Israel and the Navy have made colossal efforts to find the Dakar and make sure its crewmen are no longer alive. Now the time has come to let them rest in peace.

The mystery of the Dakar has been solved. After years of expensive efforts to locate Israel's missing sub, the time has indeed come to let our brave soldiers rest in peace.