Ready to dive deep into history, literally? Divers can now explore the wrecks of British and French ships sunk off the coast of Turkey during the Gallipoli campaign in WWI.
Tourism officials transformed the century-old wrecks of the Dardanelles Strait in a “museum under the sea”, reports Diego Cupolo for London Times. The ships sank in 1915, when Ottoman and Allied forces clashed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, a deadly victory for the central powers that would impact the lives of future world leaders. Winston Churchill and Mustafa Kemal.
The historic Gallipoli Underwater Park opened this month near the Turkish seaport of Canakkale, next to the ancient Greek ruins of Troy. Visitors can dive into the wrecks of 14 warships, including the HMS Majestic, a 421-foot British battleship that was torpedoed by a German submarine on May 27, 1915.
Some wrecks are found in relatively shallow water less than 25 feet. Others are deeper at around 60 to 100 feet. A sunken shipâHMS Triumph– sits 230 feet below the surface.
Yusuf Kartal, an official at the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, recounts TRT World‘s Karya Naz Balkiz that the underwater park is “a different world”.
He adds: “You see the submerged ship[s] as they were 106 years ago and experience the chaos of second hand warfare.
Despite the persistent threat posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, the Turkish authorities have decided to open the area to divers. (“In all the Dardanelles we have several thousand” living torpedoes, Kartal told Joshua Hammer of the New York Times; most “require a serious shake to explode.” “) The government’s decision – and the wider practice wreck diving – has drawn criticism from those who regard sunken ships as military cemeteries, the London Times reports.
The project to transform the wrecks into an underwater park took shape in 2017, following the centenary of the 1915-1916 campaign. Officials had hoped to open the park this summer but were forced to postpone until October due to the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There was history and treasures underwater for over 100 years”, Ismail Kasdemir, head of the Canakkale Historic Site, tells AFP. âThe diving community was curious.
Although British and French troops landed at Gallipoli on February 17, 1915, actual fighting did not begin until April 25. access to the Mediterranean Sea.
Designed by Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, the operation’s bitter trench warfare resulted in massive casualties on both sides. The Allies abandoned the campaign 11 months later, in January 1916, and the disgraced Churchill retired from politics for almost 20 years. He would resume his duties in 1940, leading Britain to victory in World War II as Prime Minister.
The Allied failure at Gallipoli owes much to the Ottoman commander Kemal, who succeeded in preventing British and French forces from advancing beyond their beachheads in several key battles. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, Kemal helped establish the Republic of Turkey as a secular state and adopted the surname of Ataturk, or âTurkish Fatherâ.
Today, the people of Turkey regard the Ottoman victory at Gallipoli as a defining moment for the end of the empire and the birth of a new nation. Karakas, whose grandfather was injured in Gallipoli, remembers seeing battle scars on the hands of his beloved.
“I have always been afraid of them”, says Karakas Reuters‘Yesim Dikmen and Mehmet Emin Caliskan. “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.”