World War I shipwrecks are a seabed museum in Turkey


SEDDULBAHIR, Turkey, Oct. 2 (Reuters) – Turkey’s newest park is an underwater museum with fourteen shipwrecks lying beneath the waves of the Dardanelles Strait, providing 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 when the park opened on Saturday and then dive to the seabed grave. There, he says, he was able to contact his grandfather again, who had fought in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

“My grandfather’s hands were disfigured and burned, and I was always afraid of them,” said Karakas, who lives in Istanbul and whose first name means “war”, said after the battle.

“But when I come to Gallipoli and dive, the rusted metal and steel of the wrecks remind me of my grandfather’s hands and I keep his hand underwater.”

Gallipoli Historic Underwater Park opened 106 years after Ottoman and Allied German forces stopped an invasion by British, French, Australian and New Zealand forces.

The Ottoman resistance remains a point of deep pride in modern Turkey. At the time, it thwarted the Allied plan to control the strait connecting the Aegean and Black Seas where their Russian naval allies were imprisoned.

The heavy British casualties included the 120 meter long battleship HMS Majestic, which is the first stop for divers at a depth of 24 meters off the coast of Seddulbahir.

It and other ships are largely intact on the ocean floor.

“We’re a happy 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 the war,” he said. “I felt the panic they felt at that moment.”

Letter from Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Christina Fincher

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