Submarine Dakar Found After 3 Decades
The Dakar submarine leaving Portsmouth, England. Photo: Dolphin Navy Veterans' NGO
May 28, 1999

The Israeli submarine Dakar, which disappeared in January 1968, is discovered between Crete and Cyprus almost 9,800 feet (nearly two miles) beneath the surface of the Mediterranean Sea.

The diesel-electric Dakar, originally the World War II-era HMS Totem, was bought from the British navy along with two other submarines in 1965. After two years of renovations and two months of training operations around Scotland, the submarine left Portsmouth, England, on Jan. 9, 1968, with 69 sailors en route to the port of Haifa. Yaakov Ra’anan was in command. On Jan. 24, the Dakar last reported its location, just east of Crete. Two days later, the British admiralty reported the submarine missing. Although the sub was lost, the Israeli navy quickly declared that the Dakar was sunk by mechanical failure, not enemy action.

A fisherman found the submarine’s emergency buoy marker on the Gaza coast in February 1969, but rather than provide guidance on the lost boat, the discovery led searchers to look too far south. An Egyptian newspaper reported without proof in 1970 that an Egyptian warship had sunk the Dakar.

A U.S.-Israeli search team led by American Thomas Kent Dettweiler finds the submarine using information from U.S. intelligence sources more than 31 years after its disappearance and after more than two dozen failed expeditions. A remotely operated minisub takes video showing that the object on the seabed is the Dakar, broken in half. Some artifacts, including the conning tower and the shell of the bridge, are recovered and are displayed at a naval museum in Haifa. But the remains of the sailors are not taken off the sub, and the cause of the sinking is still a mystery.