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French navy finds submarine that vanished with 52 sailors on board in 1968

A naval mission to locate and recover a French submarine that vanished without trace in 1968 has located the stricken vessel, France's Defence Minister Florence Parly announced on Monday.

French navy finds submarine that vanished with 52 sailors on board in 1968
The submarine Minerve pictured in Marseille in the late 1960s. Photo: AFP

“It's a success, a relief and a technical feat,” Parly wrote on Twitter as she announced the discovery of the Minerve submarine which was lost near the French port of Toulon off France's south coast with 52 sailors on board.

“It's a success, a relief and a technical feat,” Defence Minister Florence Parly wrote on Twitter, after the wreck was discovered off the southern French port of Toulon.


Therese Scheirmann-Descamps, widow of Minerve crew member Jules Scheirmann-Descamp. Photo: AFP

“I am thinking of the families who have waited for this moment for so long.” 

The Minerve submarine was lost off France's southern coast with 52 sailors on board on January 17, 1968.

Despite multiple search efforts over the years, it had never been found.

Parly announced a new search mission at the beginning of 2019, backed by the latest technology and naval vessels, following fresh demands from the families of deceased sailors to find the remains of their loved ones.

Tides and currents in the western Mediterranean were modelled by the team, while data from the time of the accident was also re-analysed, including seismic reports indicating the likely implosion of the vessel as it dropped to the seabed.

But the discovery was ultimately made by a boat belonging to private US company Ocean Infinity, which found the Minerve 45 km from Toulon at a depth of 2,370 metres, a senior French naval officer told AFP.

The boat, the Seabed Constructor, arrived on the scene last Tuesday, the officer said on condition of anonymity.

The Seabed Constructor was also successful in locating Argentina's lost San Juan submarine in November 2018 which had disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean a year earlier.

The cause of the accident involving the Minerve has never been announced.

Experts have speculated that it could have been due to a problem with its rudder, a collision with another boat, the explosion of a missile or torpedo, or a fault with its oxygen supply systems.

The 1960s were deadly times for submarine crews, with a host of accidents reported around the world.

In April 1963, the nuclear-powered USS Thresher sank with 129 people aboard off Cape Cod, while 99 lives were lost in the USS Scorpion when it sank in the Atlantic five years later.

Also in 1968, the Soviet K-129 submarine armed with three nuclear missiles was lost in the North Pacific. It was found by the US in a covert operation in 1974.

The year 1968 was also marked by the disappearance of The Dakar, an Israeli vessel carrying out its maiden voyage with 69 men on board.

It disappeared and was only found off the Greek island of Crete in 1999.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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