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x0x A sunken warship off Kemer

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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    x0x A sunken warship off Kemer By Levent Konuk In the spring of 1995 fishermen fishing off Kemer west of Antalya on Turkey s Mediterranean coast found that
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 2004
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      x0x A sunken warship off Kemer

      By Levent Konuk

      In the spring of 1995 fishermen fishing off Kemer west of Antalya on
      Turkey's Mediterranean coast found that their nets had become caught
      up on something on the seabed. Unable to free them, divers were called
      in, and so our story begins. When the divers descended they were
      amazed to find a warship, still loaded with unused ammunition, lying
      on the seabed at 30 metres. When I made my first dive to see the ship
      I was filled with excitement and curiosity. What was the story of this
      ship? Its name, the Paris II, its load of ammunition, and its guns
      showed it to be French. It must have sunk in one of the two world
      wars, but which I had no idea. Determined to discover more I began my
      search for information on the Internet, looking through the web sites
      of libraries and every other source I could think of, but to no avail.

      The Paris II appeared to have gone down without a trace. I had begun
      to lose hope when I came across a book of memoirs about Antalya by Dr
      Burhanettin Onat. In it was a paragraph that revived the excitement of
      my first dive to the Paris II in all its intensity:

      'Antalya's population was declining daily. That ill-omened World War I
      had dealt the city a bitter blow. Never mind coffee or tea, even
      sugar, paraffin and soap were impossible to find in either the city or
      nearby towns. As if this were not enough, the enmy'sh navy had
      blockaded the entire Antalya coast from Fethiye to Kaladran. Two
      cruisers constantly patrolled the coast, capturing even the smallest
      boat they came across, confiscating all the food they contained, and
      then sinking them.' One of Antalya's finest natural harbours and
      beaches is situated near the headland of Kalinburun or Agva Burnu at
      Kemer, 18 miles from the city. As I read on, I discovered that the two
      cruisers were named the Paris II and the Alexandrea, and that they had
      frequently anchored in this harbour. An incident which raised the
      hopes of local people at that time was the arrival in Kemer of Mustafa
      Ertugrul Bey, commander of a gun battery that had sunk an aircraft
      carrier and two destroyers near the island of Meis, which was under
      British occupation.

      Dr Onat gives the following account of those days: 'Ertugrul had
      marched as far as Kas and sunk the aircraft carrier and two
      destroyers, and now led his battery along tracks that everyone assumed
      to be impassable, installing his guns on Agva Burnu on 13 December
      1917. Before long the two cruisers appeared. At that moment the
      battery burst into action and sunk one of them.'
      One of the sailors on the French ship was the nephew of the French
      poet Pierre Loti, who later wrote an article for a French newspaper,
      quoting from the first-hand account of what happened next as related
      by his nephew: 'We had arrived off Agva Bay. Since our excellent maps
      showed that it was impossible to get field guns onto the headland, we
      never even considered the possibility of being fired on from there.

      Suddenly there were flashes like lightning above the ship and three
      shells fell into the sea with an enormous explosion. Our ship was only
      shaken by these, but the fourth shell entered one of the portholes and
      hit the engine room, killing the men there.

      The battery had been well camouflaged, and none of the shells we fired
      had any effect. The distance was short and the Turks were good shots,
      so before long our ship was riddled with holes. Any hope of escape was
      lost, and we gave the order to abandon ship. Since we were already
      exhausted, there was nothing we could do but submit to our fate and
      swim for shore. When we were 40 or 50 metres away, we saw people
      rushing out of trenches, and some of them jumping in the sea and
      swimming towards us. Was there going to be a fight in the water? We
      had no strength left for that. But our fears were soon allayed. The
      people who swam out to us and those waiting on the beach embraced us
      compassionately and lifting us into their arms carried us out of the
      water. We all lay on the sand. First they attended to the wounded.

      Turkish soldiers unstitched their first-aid packages from the hems of
      their capes and dressed our wounds. One of them ripped a length of
      material from his shirt and bandaged my wound. Neither I nor any of
      the Frenchmen who witnessed this moving scene could hold back our

      They brought us water and food, and offered us a delicious smelling
      hot drink prepared like tea but sweetened with raisins in place of
      Pierre Loti ended his article with these words: 'After the battle the
      battery went to Antalya, where celebrations took place, and medals and
      gifts were distributed. I wish to add that the prisoners of war were
      included in these festivities.'
      When we had inspected the ship on the seabed, it had been obvious from
      the damage to the deck that the ship had been sunk by gunfire. The
      story of the Paris II revealed by Dr Onat's book had proved more
      interesting than I could ever have anticipated. But it also prompted
      new questions that remained to be answered. What had been the fate of
      the second cruiser, the Alexandrea? She too had been sunk, but how and
      where was still a mystery.

      * Levent Konuk is a photographer and freelance writer.
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