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Sunken submarine will likely remain in its underwater tomb

JERUSALEM, June 2 (JTA) — This week’s discovery of the sunken remains of the Dakar submarine, lost at sea three decades ago, brought some measure of closure to a long and painful mystery. The submarine, and its 69 crew members, disappeared without a trace during its maiden voyage in January 1969 from Britain to Israel. The disappearance prompted numerous theories, including one that the submarine had come under attack and another that it had been abducted by an enemy power such as the Soviet Union. Last Friday, some of the wilder speculation was put to rest when a U.S. salvage team hired by Israel located the submarine at a point along the vessel’s original route — less than two miles beneath the surface southeast of Crete. The site of the sinking was not far from the submarine’s location during its last communication. Using the same robot video technology that had been used to locate the wreckage of the Titanic, the U.S. team returned with pictures of the submarine resting in the eerie darkness of the Mediterranean’s depths. Taken from the vantage point of the break in the hull, the photographs show the vessel’s compass, a spool of yellow nylon cable used by the crew members for work outside the ship and a storage area with two sealed ammunition cases fully intact. Within days, an Israeli team positively identified the wreckage as the Dakar. On Tuesday, a navy investigator said the Dakar was probably rammed accidentally and was not the target of an attack. The crew of the Dakar probably spotted a large ship coming at them when it was already too late, he added. His comments came one day after the commander of the Israeli navy, Maj. Gen. Alex Tal, said Israel is unlikely to try to raise the wreckage of the Dakar. Tal told the families of the crew who were aboard the submarine that naval forces lack the technology to carry out a deep sea retrieval of the Dakar. Nevertheless, Defense Minister Moshe Arens said this week that if such technology is found, cost would not be an obstacle. Relatives of the Dakar crew disagree over whether an effort should be made to salvage the vessel and look for bodies. On Wednesday, a member of the U.S. team that found the vessel said the chances of finding human remains are slim. “My experience with deep-water wrecks has been to not find bodies,” Tom Dettweiler, director of the Nauticus salvage team, told a news conference. He disagreed with the conclusion of the Israeli naval investigator. Screening excerpts from an underwater video of the Dakar wreckage, Dettweiler said it was too early to conclude what caused the Dakar to sink. He added that the technology needed to raise the wreckage did not yet exist. Such technology “would have to be developed around the project. That’s quite a ways down the road before you can consider anything like that,” he said. Meanwhile, Israel Radio reported that a Mediterranean cruise ship returning to Israel is due to hold a memorial service next week for the Dakar crew when it sails near the site of the sub’s disappearance.