By Yesim Dikmen and Mehmet Emin Caliskan
SEDDULBAHIR, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkey’s newest park is an underwater museum of fourteen wrecks 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 into the seabed tomb when the park opened on Saturday. There, he says, he was able to reconnect with his grandfather who fought in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.
âMy grandfather’s hands were disfigured and burned in battle, and I was still afraid of it,â said Karakas, who lives in Istanbul and whose first name means âwar,â after the battle.
“But when I come to Gallipoli and dive, the rusty metal and steel of the wrecks remind me of my grandfather’s hands and I hold his hand underwater.”
Gallipoli Historic Underwater Park opened 106 years after German Ottoman and Allied forces stopped an invasion by British, French, Australian and New Zealand troops.
Ottoman resistance remains a point of deep pride in modern Turkey. At the time, he thwarted the Allied plan to control the strait connecting the Aegean Sea with the Black Sea, where their Russian naval allies were herded.
Heavy British losses included the 120-meter battleship HMS Majestic, which is the first stop for divers at a depth of 24 meters off the coast of Seddulbahir.
He and other vessels are largely intact on the seabed.
âWe are a lucky generation because we can still visit these monuments,â said Ali Ethem Keskin, another underwater photographer from Istanbul.
âWhen I started divingâ¦ I felt the moment they sank and I felt the stress of the war,â he said. “I felt the panic they felt at that point.”
(Written by Jonathan Spicer, edited by Christina Fincher)