By Yesim Dikmen and Mehmet Emin Caliskan
SEDDULBAHIR, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkey’s newest park is an underwater museum of fourteen shipwrecks that lie beneath the waves of the Dardanelles Strait, a glimpse into the fierce battles between Ottoman and Allied forces during World War I.
Turkish photographer Savas Karakas was one of the first to board a motorboat and then dive down to the underwater tomb when the park opened on Saturday. There, he says, he was able to reconnect with his grandfather who fought in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.
“My grandfather’s hands were disfigured and burned in battle, and I was always afraid of that,” Karakas, who lives in Istanbul and whose first name means “war,” said after the battle.
“But when I come to Gallipoli and dive, the rusty metal and steel of the wrecks reminds me of my grandfather’s hands and I hold his hand underwater.”
Political cartoons about world leaders
Gallipoli Historic Underwater Park opened 106 years after Ottoman and allied German forces halted an invasion by British, French, Australian and New Zealand troops.
The Ottoman resistance remains a point of deep pride in modern Turkey. At the time, he thwarted the Allies’ plan to control the strait connecting the Aegean to the Black Sea, where their Russian naval allies were penned.
Heavy British casualties included the 120m battleship HMS Majestic, which is the first stop for divers at a depth of 24m off Seddulbahir.
He and other ships are largely intact on the seabed.
“We are a lucky generation because we… can still visit these monuments,” said Ali Ethem Keskin, another underwater photographer from Istanbul.
“When I started diving…I felt the moment they were sunk, and I felt the stress of war,” he said. “I felt the panic they felt at that time.”
(Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Christina Fincher)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.