The French navy announced on Monday that it had located the wreck of a submarine that disappeared in 1968, voicing hope that the 50-year mystery of how it vanished may finally be solved.
“It’s a success, a relief and a technical feat,” Defense Minister Florence Parly wrote on Twitter.
Minerve, as the submarine was called, was last heard from off the southern coast of France with 52 sailors on board on January 17, 1968.
Multiple efforts over the years to locate it have come up empty. A number of likely causes for the sinking have been put forward, including a fault with the oxygen supply system, a problem with the rudder, or a torpedo or collision with another vessel.
The 1960s saw several large submarines lost at sea. In 1963, 129 were killed when the USS Thresher sank. Five years later, 99 died aboard the USS Scorpion. In the same year, the Soviet K-129 submarine was lost in the North Pacific, though it was found during a US operation in the 1970s.
Another vessel, the Israeli submarine INS Dakar, also sank in 1968 and was not discovered until 1999 off the Greek island of Crete.
Private vessel locates Minerve
But last year, Parly announced a new massive search effort the Minerve, using the latest technology and naval vessels after a renewed campaign from the sailors’ relatives to find the bodies of their loved ones.
The team mapped the tides and currents of the Mediterranean at the time of the disappearance, as well as seismic data that had indicated the vessel had imploded.
In the end, however, private US company Ocean Infinity found the Minerve about 45 kilometers (30 miles) from the southern French city of Toulon, at a depth of about 2,370 meters (7,800 feet).
Ocean Infinity’s boat, the Seabed Constructor, was called to aid in the search last Tuesday, an official speaking anonymously told the press.
This particular vessel was also responsible for finding the lost Argentinian submarine San Juan in 2018, one year after it sank.