A French submarine that disappeared with 52 crew members onboard over five decades ago has been found on the seabed in the Mediterranean off the port of Toulon.
“It’s a success, a relief and a technical feat,” Florence Parly, the defence minister, tweeted. “I am thinking of the families who have waited for so long for this moment.”
La Minerve was on a military exercise when it disappeared in January 1968 and repeated searches to trace it proved futile, according to The Guardian.
Under pressure from relatives of crew members, a fresh search at the beginning of this year was launched using the latest hi-tech equipment to map and model tides and currents in the Mediterranean.
“Data from the time of the accident was also re-examined. This included seismic reports that suggested the submarine probably imploded as it dropped to the bottom of the sea,” reports The Guardian.
La Minerve was discovered by private US company Ocean Infinity’s search ship ‘Seabed Constructor’ at a depth of 2,370 metres, 27 miles (45km) from Toulon, which is home to a French naval base.
Families of crew members are hoping the wreckage will provide clues about the cause of the accident that led to the submarine sinking in just four minutes.
The son of La Minerve’s commander, André Fauve, said it was a moment of “great emotion” for the families concerned.
“Many people told me they were supporting me during the search because they didn’t want me to feel alone but they didn’t believe it would be found,” Hervé Fauve told Le Monde.
François Meunier, whose brother of Marc was a quartermaster on La Minerve, said, “It’s the end of a long wait and many questions.”
The first three letters of the vessel’s name were clearly visible on one piece of wreckage found on Sunday.