A French submarine that went missing in the western Mediterranean in 1968 has been located during a search mission, officials said on Monday, ending a 51-year wait for families of the deceased who continue to seek answers to the naval disaster.
It's a success, a relief and a technical feat, Defense Minister Florence Parly wrote on Twitter, after the wreck was discovered 45 kilometers (30 miles) off the southern French port of Toulon.
I am thinking of the families who have waited for this moment for so long, she said.
The diesel and electric-powered Minerve submarine was lost off France's southern coast with 52 sailors on board on Jan 17, 1968.
At the start of the year, Parly announced a new search mission involving naval vessels and marine experts following fresh demands from families for an effort to find the final location of their loved ones.
It's a relief, hugely emotional, the son of the Minerve's captain, Herve Fauve, said that after years of calling for the search mission. These 52 sailors had been abandoned in some ways.
Tides and currents in the western Mediterranean were modeled by the French team, as well as seismic data from the time that indicated the likely implosion of the vessel as it dropped to the seabed.
The discovery was ultimately made on Sunday by a boat belonging to private US company Ocean Infinity, which found the Minerve at a depth of 2,370 meters
The search vessel - the Seabed Constructor, which is equipped with underwater drones with powerful cameras - arrived on the scene last Tuesday, the officer said
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 loss of the Minerve has never been confirmed, but the news that it has been discovered brought joy and relief to families.
The Minerve was on a training mission in bad weather early on Jan 17 when it went down while returning to its base in Toulon, France's main Mediterranean naval port.
Experts have speculated that the disaster was caused by a problem with the Minerve's rudder, a collision with another boat, the explosion of a missile or torpedo, or a fault with its oxygen supply systems.
France is a world leader in submarine technology and its modern-day fleet of nuclear-powered vessels are seen as a key part of its defense capabilities and independence.
The year 1968 saw the loss of four submarines around the world.
The USS Scorpion sank in the Atlantic, while the Soviet K-129 submarine armed with three nuclear missiles disappeared in the North Pacific.
It was found by the US in a covert operation in 1974.
The year was also marked by the disappearance of The Dakar, an Israeli vessel carrying out its maiden voyage with 69 men on board. It was only found off the Greek island of Crete in 1999.