Divers discover French WWI submarine off Tunisia
Tunisian divers have discovered a French submarine wreck from World War I, the Ariane, which was sunk by a German submarine in 1917.
The boat was discovered off Cap Bon by the managers of a diving club in the northeast of the country as they were exploring new places to explore with their students.
"We knew they were wrecks, but we didn't know what we were going to find," said Ras Adar Club's diving director, Selim Baccar.
"We came across the submarine on the first dive."
The almost intact wreck is covered with algae. Fish and crustaceans now live in its hatches and periscope.
After questioning several experts, the club found that it could only be Ariane, which was based in Bizerte, at the time a French port in northern Tunisia.
"This is the third submarine in Tunisia and the only one from WWI. It's exciting, as if a history book came to life," Baccar said.
"We came across military reports that describe, minute by minute, everything that happened in the Mediterranean. And when we come back to this situation, I tell myself that I am glad I didn't see a war."
During World War I, German submarines wreaked havoc off the Tunisian coast, where they were originally used to cut off the Allies from reinforcing men and supplies from the French colonies, said historian Ali Ait Mihoub of Manouba University.
About 80,000 Tunisians were mobilized to fight or work in French factories during World War I, he told AFP.
The Ariane was torpedoed by a German submarine while on the surface, and according to AGASM, a French association of former submarine operators, only eight of the 29 crew members could be rescued.
"It is not common to find submarine wrecks, especially from WWI, because we do not know exactly where they sank," said Admiral Dominique Salles, president of the group.
Submarines, which played a crucial role for the first time during the First World War, then offered very simple comfort.
The French submarines, which originally had no bunks or toilets, were submersibles that stayed mostly on the surface, according to the Encyclopedia of French Submarines.
They only dived a few hours at a time for attacks that saw men and food piled up in a suffocating engine room.
ak-cnp / kl / fz / hkb
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