Greece has joined Israel in a renewed search for the Israeli submarine Dakar, which vanished 24 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean while on its delivery voyage from Britain to Haifa.
Joint naval forces will explore the waters off the islands of Crete and Rhodes in a search for the vessel, which disappeared Jan. 25, 1968 with 69 crew members aboard.
Earlier investigation focused on waters north of Alexandria, Egypt, in line with theories that the loss was a result of enemy action, an unreported collision with another vessel or a technical malfunction. Hostile activities have since been ruled out.
Now, new underwater exploration techniques have become available. And they will be used in the areas targeted by new findings on the pattern of currents in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Dakar was sailing from Gibraltar in a course that would have taken it south of Crete; at one time it was thought it had sunk there at a depth of 3,300 feet to 5,940 feet – depths it was not possible to probe at that time.
In 1969, one of the vessel’s two emergency buoys was washed ashore in the Gaza Strip, off Khan Yunis. The orange-colored barrel contained small air containers, an emergency transmitter and collapsible antennae.
Laboratories at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa submitted the buoy to a pressure check and found indications the vessel had sunk to a depth of no more than 1,100 feet. Air bottles inside the buoy would presumably have cracked in deeper waters. The antennae had been cut by an explosion or a heavy blow.
Tests showed the buoy remained attached to the Dakar for a year before it tore loose and drifted ashore.
Improved research techniques indicated that the buoy, originally thought to have been at sea for three weeks, was adrift for six weeks, thus widening the area of search.
Other new data included findings on the circular nature of currents in the Mediterranean and information based on an analysis of a seashell attached to the buoy.
Israel first realized the Dakar was in trouble when it failed to make contact, scheduled every eight hours, at 8 a.m. of the day it was posted missing. A subsequent massive air search, in which Israel was joined by British, American and Greek forces, was fruitless.
An official Israeli request to Athens for permission to search in Greek territorial waters was expedited by the Israeli ambassador to Athens, David Sasson.